Guess where our residents are going ...

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It’s no secret that newcomers are pouring into King County from around the country and the globe. In fact, we broke a record in 2014 for the number of new arrivals from out of state, which I wrote about in my last column.

But could we also be witnessing the emergence of a countertrend — that of a growing number of folks fleeing pricey King County and heading south to Pierce?

New data on U.S. counties, released by the Census Bureau on Thursday, hints that this may be the case. It sounds counterintuitive, but stay with me.

The data — called “net domestic migration” — is a simple calculation: the number of people moving into a county minus the number of people moving out. So, the net gain or loss. Included in those numbers are people who move from one county to another within a state — not just those moving across state lines (but this data does not include international migration).

While this data shows that King County still gained more people than it lost last year, the balance of that flow seems to have shifted markedly toward those who are leaving. The net domestic migration declined by 39 percent between 2013 and 2014, dropping from 11,553 people to 7,040.

This doesn’t mean that newcomers aren’t flocking to King County. They are. But the new data shows that the outbound flow increased even more dramatically than the inbound in 2014.

Meanwhile, the opposite thing happened in Pierce: There, the scales tipped in favor of new arrivals.

And it was a remarkable turnaround. In 2013, 75 more people moved out of than moved into Pierce County. But last year, Pierce registered a surplus of 4,336 domestic movers.

The $64,000 question is: How much of Pierce’s gain is King’s loss?

Unfortunately, we can’t say for sure because the new data doesn’t indicate the counties from which new arrivals originated. The Census Bureau will crunch those numbers in a future release.

But I suspect that King is feeding Pierce’s growth. In fact, if that is the case, it wouldn’t even be an entirely new phenomenon — rather, it would be the acceleration of a trend already under way. Older census data shows that between 2008 and 2012, King County had a net loss of about 3,200 people per year to Pierce County.

Net migration into Snohomish County remained virtually unchanged between 2013 and 2014.


Also in the new census release: Washington’s fastest-growing counties are Kittitas, Snohomish and Clark — each increased population by 1.7 percent last year. Of the state’s 39 counties, only four lost population: Grays Harbor, Lincoln, Columbia and Garfield.

In terms of sheer number, King County, naturally, had the largest increase in population — a one-year gain of 33,011 people.