WASHINGTON — Maine’s population edged up ever so slightly in 1997, continuing a recent trend of booming growth in the West and South while the Northeast remains stagnant, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report.
At the same time, the Bangor and Lewiston-Auburn areas have registered some of the nation’s slowest population growth figures this decade, according to a second Census Bureau report on metropolitan areas issued Wednesday.
Maine’s population grew by 0.3 percent — from 1.239 million people to 1.242 million people — from July 1996 to July 1997, the latest month for which statewide data are available, the Census Bureau said.
The state’s growth remained well below the national growth average of 0.9 percent, which pushed the national population total up to 267.6 million.
Since 1990, the nation has added more than 18 million people, a 7.3 percent increase so far this decade. Maine, however, has grown just 1.1 percent, adding only 11,000 residents to the state this decade.
A large chunk of the nation’s population increases have come from immigrants, who tend to settle in Southern and Western states where there are already established Asian and Hispanic communities. But the West and South also have benefited from migrating Northeast residents, most of whom have left their dried-up economic regions to settle in boom towns such as Las Vegas and Phoenix.
For example, in the 1990s, while New England registered a population increase of 107,000, Mountain and Pacific states added more than 6 million residents.
Maine is a tiny microcosm of this trend, as analysts have said many Mainers have moved south toward Portland in search of better-paying jobs.
In the Bangor region, which the Census Bureau counts as Penobscot County and part of Waldo County, the population has fallen 2.5 percent this decade, from 91,629 in July 1990 to 89,364 in July 1996. The Lewiston-Auburn region also experienced falling population totals, from 93,679 in 1990 to 89,364 in 1996.