Census shows slow growth

New U.S. Census Bureau data shows a majority of South Mississippi counties are continuing a slow population growth, though Harrison and Hancock counties haven’t yet reached pre-Katrina numbers.

The data released Tuesday show George, Pearl River and Stone counties each grew most years since 2000, and, more important, since Hurricane Katrina.

Though Jackson County increased its population between 2000 and 2009, it is still 1,552 people shy of where it was when Katrina hit. Pearl River County gained 9,241 people from 2000 to 2009, the fifth-highest growth in the state.

Harrison County, however, has 8,415 fewer people from that same time period. Additionally, Harrison County’s estimated population of 181,191 in 2009 is 14,652 fewer than estimates provided for July 2005, just one month before Katrina.

Hancock County still shows shrinkage. It’s down from 42,969 in 2000 to 40,962 in 2009. The census figures show the population rose to 46,097 before Katrina.

Board of Supervisors President Rocky Pullman said many past residents are wary of moving back to the area that was ground zero for Katrina.

“People are afraid of future storms,” he said.

He expects it will take a few years to learn “whether people truly still want to live by the water.”

He wasn’t surprised the three counties on the Coast with the most growth are the furthest from the Mississippi Sound. He said many Hancock County workers live in Pearl River County.

Harrison County Administrator Pam Ulrich said agencies are working to attract both former and new residents, but admits it is slow going.

Population Estimates

County population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau. The latest figures are from mid-2009:

Harrison

2000: 189,878

2005: 195,843

2009: 181,191

Jackson

2000: 131,839

2005: 134,474

2009: 132,922

Hancock

2000: 43,272

2005: 46,097

2009: 40,962

Stone

2000: 13,688

2005: 14,715

2009: 16,619

Pearl River

2000: 48,766

2005: 51,764

2009: 57,860

George

2000: 19,195

2005: 20,856

2009: 22,681

By DONNA MELTON – dmelton@sunherald.com
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