While most metro areas didn’t experience significant swings in population over the past year, several in the Sun Belt and Mountain West saw noticeable gains.

New census data released today signals nearly all of the nation’s fastest-growing metro areas are concentrated in South and western U.S., with only three metro areas outside the two regions cracking the top 30 in percentage population growth since 2011.

Midland, Texas, added 6,700 residents over the year -- a 4.6 percent increase that far exceeded all other areas. The fact that Midland is adding residents so rapidly isn’t surprising considering the strength of its economy: Midland’s unemployment rate, as of December, was the lowest of any metro area, and it ranks near the top in concentration of high-income households.

After Midland, the Clarksville, Tenn., and Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, Fla., metro areas registered the next fastest population growth. A few larger metros also made the list, led by the Austin area, where the population swelled an estimated 3 percent in only a year.

The new census data measures population change from July 2011 to July 2012.

Quite a few metro areas in Texas, North Carolina and Florida ranked near the top in terms of percentage increase. The Census Bureau reported areas of west Texas and North Dakota continue to record rapid population growth, driven by an oil and natural gas boom.

The only metro areas outside the South or western U.S. with a top-30 population increase were Manhattan, Kansas, Bismark, N.D., and Sioux Falls, S.D.

Smaller metro areas tend to see greater fluctuations in percentage change. But even with the raw numbers, it’s the larger metro areas in the Sun Belt and western U.S. that recorded the largest gains.

Of 381 metro areas, the following recorded the largest year-over-year total population increases:

  • Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX: +131,879
  • Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX: +125,185
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA: +107,781
  • New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA: +101,928
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV: +89,129
  • Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA: +83,153
  • Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ: +77,456
  • Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL: +74,809
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA: +58,642
  • Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA: +54,338
  • Austin-Round Rock, TX: +53,595
  • Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL: +48,670
  • Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA: +48,255
  • Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO: +46,713
  • San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX: +42,333
  • Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC: +39,435
  • San Diego-Carlsbad, CA: +38,880
  • Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH: +37,458
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI: +33,215
  • Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV: +32,833

Residents moving from one state to another appear to be driving part of the population shift. The Census Bureau estimates the Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston-Sugar Land and Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach areas each had net domestic and international migration increases of more than 50,000 residents in the 12-month period.

Of course, births and deaths also affect population swings – areas with many families typically record the largest natural change.

Today’s data release provides updated estimates for the nation’s counties, metropolitan areas and smaller micropolitan areas. In December, the Census Bureau published 2012 estimates for states. North Dakota recorded the largest percentage increase, while Texas, California and Florida added the most total residents for the year.

Metro Area Population Map

The following map shows metro area population change from July 2011 to July 2012. Yellow icons represent metro areas with population declines, while dark green icons signify those with the greatest percentage increases. (Click to open full-screen interactive map)