By Carol Morello
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 23, 2010; B05
Northern Virginia experienced some of the fastest growth in the country last year, with the pace quickening in areas closest to the District as the recession deepened.
Census figures released Tuesday cement Virginia's position as the growth engine for the Washington region. Most places there had population growth of more than 3 percent from 2008 to 2009. By comparison, Montgomery County grew by 1.9 percent and Prince George's County by half a percentage point.
The District grew by 9,600 people, or 1.6 percent, continuing a rebound that has the city's population bumping up against the 600,000 level for the first time in two decades.
The latest population estimates have Alexandria gaining 5,400 residents last year, a 3.8 percent increase, and Arlington County adding 7,300, a 3.5 percent jump. Both jurisdictions grew at slower rates during the earlier part of the decade. Last year, they were among the nation's 10 fastest-growing places with populations greater than 100,000.
Loudoun County also grew by 3.8 percent, and it ended the decade up almost 78 percent, making it the fifth-fastest-growing county in the nation over the past 10 years. But the census figures show that its growth has started to slow. For example, in 2004, the county had about 17,500 more residents than in the previous year. Last year, it grew by 11,000.
Prince William County picked up speed again after its growth stalled for three consecutive years. Last year, it was up 3.6 percent, with 13,000 additional residents. Fairfax County, the largest jurisdiction in the region, was a relative laggard, with 18,000 more people, an increase of 1.8 percent.
William H. Frey, a demographer for the Brookings Institution, said the population estimates reflect the effect of the recession and the collapse of the housing market in the far-out suburbs, combined with a revival of interest in life in the District.
"There's a high quality of urban life in this area," he said. "People are experiencing it as a result of a housing slowdown that normally might have propelled them out to the exurbs. There's a 'there' there in Washington."
The population figures are the final annual estimates before the 2010 Census is completed and the results are made public this year.