Hispanics were the fastest-growing group in Washington over the past decade, but the state remains overwhelmingly white, according to new figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Wednesday.

Share story

Hispanics were the fastest-growing group in Washington over the past decade, but the state remains overwhelmingly white, according to new figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Wednesday.

The Hispanic population swelled by 314,000 — slightly more than 71 percent — between 2000 and 2010, much faster than the state’s overall growth of 14.1 percent. In Eastern Washington, Franklin and Adams counties are now majority Hispanic.

Although growth slowed compared to the 1990s, the new figures show the Puget Sound region ended the last decade with sizable population increases despite a lingering recession. King, Pierce and Snohomish counties added nearly 400,000 residents, and Seattle topped the 600,000 mark for the first time.

“I think in this recession, Seattle and King County weathered it pretty well. If there are any new jobs, it’s there,” said Yi Zhao, the state’s official demographer, after an initial look at the numbers.

This week, save 90% on digital access.

About half of the growth in the Puget Sound area was because of people moving here; the rest was because more people were born than died, according to the Puget Sound Regional Council.

The census numbers determine everything from political representation to state tax allocations for cities. Washington’s population growth means the state will get a 10th seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

A five-member commission will set to work using the figures to decide where the new district will be drawn.

The growth in the Hispanic community helped make Eastern Washington’s Franklin County the fastest growing in the state, with an overall population jump of more than 58 percent. About 80,000 people now live there, up from about 50,000 a decade ago.

Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins said generations of farmworkers who came to work the fields have increasingly settled in the area. “Their children now are working at Home Depot instead of cutting asparagus,” he said.

The Tri-Cities-area growth also was boosted by temporary Hanford workers whose work is ending as federal stimulus money for cleanup at the mothballed nuclear facility runs out.

Asian Americans experienced the next fastest statewide growth, at about 50 percent. The black population grew by about 24 percent and whites by about 5 percent.

Overall, Washington remains a predominantly white state, with a minority population of 27.5 percent, the new figures show. That’s up from 21 percent in 2000. The non-Hispanic white population is now at nearly 73 percent of the state’s residents. Hispanics make up about 11 percent of the state’s 6.7 million residents, according to the census, compared with 7.5 percent a decade ago.

“We’ve seen the growth,” said Uriel Iqiguez, executive director of the Washington State Commission on Hispanic Affairs. “Our state has been successful because we have accepted people from all ethnic backgrounds.”

Asians are the second largest minority at 7.6 percent, followed by African Americans at 3.4 percent.

In several counties, the white population declined while minority communities grew. That includes King County, where the number of whites declined by 24,000 over the decade while the minority population grew by 218,000. The most rapid minority growth was in southern suburbs including Kent, Tukwila, Renton and Auburn.

Of the five largest counties, Clark County topped the fast-growing list with population growth of 23 percent, to about 425,000 people. King County remains the largest, with 1.9 million people, followed by Pierce, which saw a 13.5 percent jump in its population to 795,000.

Only two counties registered a population decline — Pacific and Garfield counties.

The fastest-growing city during the decade was Snoqualmie, which nearly quintupled in size, from a population of 2,150 in 2000 to 10,670 last year. Its minority population grew by 893 percent during that time.

Virtually all of the city’s growth was in Snoqualmie Ridge, a planned development between historic Snoqualmie and Interstate 90.

Among other metropolitan areas, Vancouver’s population grew by nearly 13 percent and Bellevue grew by about 12 percent. Tacoma’s growth was the lowest among major cities at 2.5 percent.

Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or jbrunner@seattletimes.com. Justin Mayo: 206-464-3669. Seattle Times reporter Jack Broom contributed to this report. This report includes material from The Associated Press.

Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.