WASHINGTON - Louisiana appears to be rebounding from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, gaining 50,000 residents in the year ending July 1, according to Census Bureau state population estimates to be released today.
After the storm hit in August 2005, the bureau estimated the state lost 250,000 residents. Despite the most recent gain, the state is far from returning to its pre-Katrina population of 4.5 million.
The Census Bureau estimate is reached by measuring births, deaths, and migration into and out of each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, from July 2006 to July 2007.
Pennsylvania's population of 12.4 million was a 0.2 percent increase. New Jersey showed the same percentage growth, to 8.7 million.
In Louisiana, the Census estimates a net increase of people moving into the state of 29,000, accounting for more than half the jump. "That's a pretty big number," said Greg Harper, a demographer with the bureau.
The fastest-growing states continue to be in the Rocky Mountain region and the Southeast. Texas also is still attracting new residents at a rapid rate.
Nevada returned to the top spot, having increased 2.9 percent in population to 2.6 million. Nevada held that title for 19 years in a row before being bumped off by Arizona last year. Arizona is the second-fastest-growing state, according to the current estimate, with a population increase of 2.8 percent to 6.3 million.
Only two states lost population: Michigan's population dipped by three-tenths of a percent, and Rhode Island's decreased four-tenths of a percent. Ohio's growth was virtually flat.
Florida, a state whose economy has been fueled largely by a steady stream of retirees crossing the border each year, gained in population but at a slower rate than usual. Florida was the 19th-fastest-growing state through July 2007 compared with the previous year, when it ranked ninth.
The total U.S. population was estimated at 301.6 million July 1.
The bureau will release county population breakdowns in the spring, which should give a clearer indication of exactly how many residents have returned to the parishes in and around New Orleans.
The urban-planning consultancy firm GCR & Associates this week estimated New Orleans' population at 300,000, or about 65 percent of its pre-Hurricane Katrina size, which was about 455,000.