Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

FILE— After topping 3 million residents in 2016, the Beehive State’s population is expected to continue its steady climb for years to come, and researchers predict growth will be driven in large part by Utah’s economy — one of the strongest in the nation.
Utah's Strong Economy Fueling Population Growth

SALT LAKE CITY — After topping 3 million residents in 2016, the Beehive State’s population is expected to continue its steady climb for years to come, and researchers predict growth will be driven in large part by Utah’s economy — one of the strongest in the nation.

According to data from the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, the state’s population is projected to increase from 3 million last year to 5.5 million in 2065. In the meantime, the next major population milestone Utah is expected to eclipse is the 4 million mark in 2034 — less than 20 years from now.

“Last year, we had the most rapidly growing state in the nation,” explained Pam Perlich, director of demographic research at the institute. While the rate of growth will likely moderate in the coming years, Perlich said a solid rate of population increase is expected for the foreseeable future.

“We are part of a growth region, and Utah is leading the way right now,” she said.

The Utah population reached the 3 million mark just 20 years after reaching 2 million in 1995. Current projections have the state achieving 4 million people during 2034 and 5 million people in 2054, just 20 years later, Perlich said.

She described the pace of growth as a “sustainable, more manageable rate of growth.” Much of the growth comes from new people moving into the state for employment opportunities, she noted.

“Right now, the state is creating jobs at a pretty rapid rate,” she noted. “We’ve got people moving here from out of state and we have labor shortages.”

Currently, Utah’s unemployment rate registers at 3.1 percent, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services. That extremely low level of joblessness has created an attractive situation for prospective job seekers, but also resulted in a significant labor deficit, said Robert Spendlove, senior vice president and economic and public policy officer for Zions Bank.

Over the past five years, annual net in-migration in Utah has increased dramatically, he said. Net in-migration is the amount by which the number of people moving into the state is greater than the number of people leaving the state.