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Keeping up with 2013 County Population TrendsNew


Last month, the U.S. Census Bureau released the 2013 county population estimates, allowing a closer look at population changes on a local level.  NACo’s previous analysis of 2013 state and regional trends revealed that U.S. population continued to grow between 2012 and 2013 overall, but at a slightly slower rate than in the previous year. Population expansion at the county level shows wider variation within state or regional trends, often driven by the local economic climate.   

The population slowdown happened in almost half of all the counties across the country.  More than half of counties in 14 states – including Alaska, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania – experienced slower population growth in 2013 than in the previous year.  Alaska had the largest share of boroughs undergoing a population slowdown, with 16 out of the total 19 witnessing a deceleration.

But counties saw population expansion in 2013 and at the lower end of growth rates, stabilization.

Consistent with regional findings, many of the fastest growing counties were counties in the South and Midwest.  Most often, these are small counties (with less than 50,000 reside...

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3 days ago | 0

Burden on County Jails Increases as California Tries to Lower Prison Population

California jail population increased in 2012 as the implementation of the public safety realignment process forced reductions in prison population.  On February 10th this year, a three-judge panel approved California's proposal to extend their deadline for the reduction of prison populations to 2016.  This is the final deadline extension from an original court order in 2009 that sought to improve health and mental health care services for inmates by reducing California’s prison population to 137.5 percent of statewide capacity.  Unfortunately for counties, this public safety realignment that began in 2011 in California and similar decisions to reduce prison population across the United States may mean more inmates in county jails.


Local jails represent an important component of the correctional system in any state.  According to the 2012 Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) data, California jails house over 78,000 individuals, almost 4 in 10 incarcerated individuals in the state.  This is more than 10 percent of all the local jails’ inmates in the United States.  Generally, jails house individuals who are awaiting trial or who are serving short sentences, while prisons ...

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2 weeks ago | 0

Spotlight on Transportation Funding in Oklahoma Counties


In February 2014, NACo released a new research study The Road Ahead: County Transportation Funding and Financing, which examines county transportation (roads and bridges) funding mechanisms, challenges and solutions across the 48 ​states with county governments.  Accompanying the study, NACo released an interactive web-based map that details information related to transportation funding for counties in each state from the share of county roads and bridges in the state to identifying the states that authorize counties to raise a local option sales tax to use for transportation.  The user can also access individual two page profile for each state on how counties in that state fund transportation.

Taking a closer look at counties in one state — Oklahoma— shows the range of information available on the interactive tool and state profiles.  Oklahoma counties have a significant responsibility for roads and bridges in the state — counties own 70 percent of public road miles and 59 percent of all bridges statewide.  By comparison, c...

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4 weeks ago | 0

How to Use the Road Ahead Transportation Interactive

road ahead interactive screenshot.png

NACo recently released The Road Ahead: County Transportation Funding and Financing, a study assessing the role of counties in transportation (roads and bridges), funding challenges and solutions to their transportation systems.  Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), the federal surface transportation funding legislation expires at the end of September 2014, with federal discussions surrounding reauthorization already started.  This study and the companion products will help NACo guide discussions regarding federal transportation legislation.

Together with the study, NACo research team released the Road Ahead web-based map interactive featuring state level maps showcasing state and county transportation statistics.  The web map provides access also to individual state profiles for the 43 states in which counties play a role in roads and bridges.  To access the report, web interactive and state profiles, go to

The interactive showcases eight indicators listed in the top menu.  Once the user clicks on the top level indicator, the interactive displays the respective state level data across the map.   The user can access the definition for each indicator by hovering over each indicator tab.  Additionally, the user ca...

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6 weeks ago | 0

New Estimates Show Shifting US Population


Population changes can create opportunities or challenges for governments, including county governments.  The U.S. Census Bureau recently released the 2013 population estimates for states and regions, which are a good preview of the more detailed data at the county level forthcoming in March.  The 2013 state population data shows continued national population growth, but with important regional differences.

Population growth varied significantly across regions and states.  Overall, the U.S. population expanded by 0.7 percent between 2012 and 2013.  This overall growth rate was slightly slower than the previous year, and continued a trend of declining growth rates.  At the regional level, the South and West added residents at higher rates than the national average, similar with previous years.  Population in the Northeastern and Midwestern regions also expanded, but at much slower rates of growth than the other regions.

Some states stood out for their rapid population growth in 2013.  With an economic boom fueled by the expansion in the oil industry, North Dakota was the state with the fastest population growth in 2013, at over 3 percent.  Since 2011, North Da...

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2 months ago | 0

2013 in Retrospective: The Recovery of Large Counties

As 2014 starts unfolding, the NACo research team looked into how county economies fared last year and over the recession and recovery to better understand the baselines and growth trends across the country.  With this goal in mind, NACo released County Tracker 2013, a study together with a web-based map interactive that examines the recession and recovery patterns across county economies based on the analysis of annual changes in four economic indicators — economic output (GDP), jobs, unemployment rates and home prices.

2013 has been a relatively good year and the U.S. economy is improving.  However, the recovery remains fragile and uneven, with high unemployment rates and employment still below pre-recession levels.  Large county economies were part of this story of uneven and fragile recovery across county economies.

The 122 large county economies — the economies of counties with more than 500,000 residents — anchor the economy of their metropolitan areas and states.  Only 4 percent of all the 3,069 county economies, they represent more than half of all jobs and concentrate 57 percent of county economies’ output (GDP).  They have been at the core o...

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2 months ago | 0

Exports on the Ground

U.S. exports hit a
record high in October, helping the growth of the U.S. economy and driving down the trade deficit.  This has been a recurrent story over the last several years.  Export growth has played a large part in the nation’s recovery, accounting for 37 percent of U.S economic output growth between 2009 and 2012.  County economies were part of this trend, as they are the fundamental blocks of regional economies, states and the nation.  Counties have actively contributed to the success of U.S. exports by developing initiatives designed to help local businesses increase their exports to international markets and create jobs in their local economies.

All county economies export, but their export profiles differ reflecting the strengths of each county economy.  Recent data released by the Brookings Institution offers insight into the export profiles of counties.  While the bulk of 2012 U.S. exports  — 48 percent  — were produced in large county economies, exports mattered more for small county economies, being responsible for almost 20 percent of the economic output in these county economies.  Businesses located in medium-sized counties p...

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4 months ago | 0

Hydraulic Fracturing Brings Economic Boom to North Dakota Counties

Over the past ten years the hydraulic fracturing industry has revolutionized the economies of several North Dakota counties. Dunn County, McKenzie County, Mountrail County and Williams County, all located in the northwest portion of the state, benefited greatly, with the boom creating new jobs and improving the economies of these counties.

Hydraulic Fracturing is a process that allows for the collection of oil and natural gas by applying pressurized liquid to rock formations. All four counties are located on the Bakken Formation, which is prime territory for fracturing. Oil production on the formation has significantly increased; in 2013, over 80% of the oil production in N.D. came from these four counties.

The growth of fracturing has led to N.D. becoming a major producer of crude oil in the U.S. – in August 2013, the state produced over 900,000 barrels of oil a day, behind only Texas among states. From 2005 to 2011, the number of people employed in the oil and gas sectorincreased from 6,000 to 35,000, with the majority of these jobs being created along the Bakken Formation. In 2011 ...

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5 months ago | 0

Alabama Counties Receive Funding for Roads and Bridges in Need


Alabama counties are tackling the national problem of deteriorating roads, highways, and bridges through an innovative partnership with the state department of transportation that couples federal highway dollars and local matching funds.

The project known as the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program or ATRIP, began in early 2012 with local governments afforded the opportunity to compete for funding of projects emphasizing s​afety, economic development, congestion and the growing problem of bridges closed to school bus traffic. In the 18 months that have followed, three additional application cycles produced applications from every county, scores of cities and universities.

ATRIP was initiated by Governor Robert Bentley with the support of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama and the Association of County Engineers of Alabama.  Utilizing the so-called GARVEE bond program authorized in the federal transportation legislation, Alabama will issue bonds to cover 80 percent of the program cost and repay the bonds with future federal gasoline tax revenue.

To receive funding, counties and cities submitted applications to ALDOT.  A committee selected by the Governor analyzed each proposal and provided recommendations to Gov. Bentley.   Selected projects received...

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6 months ago | 0