WASHINGTON – Baltimore officials said they plan to challenge new Census Bureau estimates that say the city lost 7,053 residents last year, making it the only jurisdiction in the state to lose population from 2003 to 2004.
“People are moving back downtown. Economic development is taking place downtown and in the neighborhoods,” said Rick Abbruzzese, a spokesman for Mayor Martin O’Malley. “Development wouldn’t be taking place as quickly if people weren’t back to the city.”
Census figures released Thursday said that Baltimore’s population fell from 643,304 in 2003 to 636,251 in 2004. At the same time, the state added 45,748 people, the Census said, a 0.8 percent increase that brought Maryland’s population to 5,558,058 residents.
Calvert, Cecil and Charles counties had the fastest growth rate in the state during the year, the bureau said, with population increases of 2.8 percent, 2.8 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively.
But the Washington suburbs added the most people during the year: Montgomery County grew by 6,632 people to 921,690 residents last year, and Prince George’s County added 6,598 people to bring its population to 842,967.
Montgomery and Prince George’s made the bureau’s list of the 100 largest counties in the country in 2004, along with Baltimore County and Baltimore City.
Calvert County, meanwhile, just made the list of the 100 fastest-growing counties in the country from 2000 to 2004. Its 16 percent growth put Calvert in 99th place.
The bureau said domestic migration was a major component behind Calvert’s booming population, which reached 86,474 people in 2004.
Danita Boonchaisri, marketing and communications specialist at Calvert’s Department of Economic Development, said population growth is good for county businesses, especially since a large number of residents work outside the county.
About 60 percent of residents commute out of Calvert County, with many of them going to federal jobs in Washington, D.C., and in other Maryland counties, Boonchaisri said.
The result is “high-tech employers couldn’t find employees they needed,” she said. But Boonchaisri said the influx of highly skilled workers from other counties would “help them fill their openings.”
In Baltimore, officials pointed to the city’s economic development as evidence that people are not fleeing. City officials concede that the population is slipping, but at a much slower rate than the Census claims.
“We will certainly challenge their numbers,” Abbruzzese said of the Census’ latest estimates. The city also challenged Census population estimates in 2001 and 2003 — winning changes in the numbers both times.
Baltimore Planning Director Otis Rolley III said the city will challenge the bureau as it has done in the past, by relying on housing unit data, such as occupancy permits. Rolley said he hopes the city will be able to release its version in the next two months.
But the Census Bureau stood by its numbers.
“We are pretty confident that the method, in general, is a fairly accurate representation of population change,” said Greg Harper, demographer in the bureau’s population division.
The bureau said Thursday that Baltimore population is declining because of a significantly more people are moving to other counties than are moving in, and there are not enough births or international migrants to make up the difference.
Mark Goldstein, an economist at the Maryland Department of Planning, agreed that the city loses population because of out-migration of residents, but said the trend is not new, or even unique, for a historically large city. Baltimore’s population has been falling since the 1950s, like other major cities throughout the country, he said.
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