by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Wake County is now North Carolina’s largest county by population, with 1,129,410 residents. It’s 1.2% larger than the second-largest county, Mecklenburg. Both are more than twice as large as No. 3 Guilford.
Meanwhile, the state’s smallest county — Tyrrell — is home to 3,245 people.
Carolina Demography highlights interesting numbers in its early assessment of new census data released today.
We’re looking at the redistricting data file that was released on August 12, 2021. Here are some notable findings:
North Carolina grew by 9.5% over the last decade
Between 2010 and 2020, North Carolina’s population grew from 9,535,483 to 10,439,483, an increase of 903,905 or 9.5%. Over this same period, 51 North Carolina counties lost population and 49 grew.
Wake County is now officially bigger than Mecklenburg County
Wake County officially surpassed Mecklenburg to become the most populous county in North Carolina. Otherwise, the five largest counties in North Carolina in 2020 were also the five largest in 2010:
Both Wake and Mecklenburg are more than twice as populous as Guilford, the state’s third-largest county. Wake, Mecklenburg, and Guilford grew faster than the state over the decade while Forsyth and Cumberland grew more slowly.
Tyrrell County remains the least populous county in NC
The five smallest NC counties in 2020 are the same as in 2010, with some shuffling between Jones and Camden:
Camden County was the only one of these counties to grow over the decade (3.8%). The other four counties had large population losses.
Fasting-growing counties in NC
After a decade of population estimates suggesting that Brunswick was the fastest-growing county, Johnston County took a slight edge in the end. The five fastest-growing counties in North Carolina from 2010-2020 were:
Largest population losses in NC counties
51 counties in North Carolina lost population over the decade. The counties with the largest numeric declines were:
Racial/ethnic composition of NC in 2020 (from largest to smallest)
American Indian: 1.0%
All other races: 0.5%