The U.S. population is moving up a notch as Americans ring in the new year, according to the latest projections from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Estimates released Wednesday peg the number of people at 322,762,018 on Jan. 1, 2016 — a modest increase of .77 percent from a year ago that falls below the pace of the population rise worldwide.
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The projected increase is the net result of births over deaths and an influx of immigrants, the census report says.
In relative terms, the United States is inching forward at a slower rate than at the start of this century, while recovering from slow growth after the recent recession, said demographer William H. Frey, senior fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program of the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.
An upward population trend reflects the economy’s vigor and is critical to fuel it, Frey said.
“I absolutely think this kind of growth is necessary for us to sustain the economy,” Frey said.
The census report included a projection for the world population, expected to clock in at 7.3 billion people at 2016’s start — a 1 percent yearly rise that means the planet’s population grew by 77.9 million people.
If the pattern holds for the United States, census experts expect a child will be born every eight seconds while one death will occur every 10 seconds in 2016.
The numbers would be bolstered by adding an immigrant to the U.S. population every 29 seconds. The net result will be an increase of one person every 17 seconds.
Frey said at that rate the country can expect to continue seeing net immigration of more than 1 million people a year, “which is healthier than we’ve had for quite a while” and consistent with a recent rise in foreign-born residents.
“We’d like to have this growth or higher through immigration, through a little bit more fertility, because it will help us sustain our labor force” and “increase consumer demand for lots of products that young people and young adults and young householders need” while supporting an aging population, said Frey, whose employer is a nonprofit that issues research and recommends policy on fostering democracy and a prosperous economy.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s projections follow a full-year report of estimates issued last week that showed New York gaining at a yearly rate of 2.4 people per thousand residents, due to births and immigration in the 12 months ending in July. The state remained fourth in population despite losing residents to other states.
The latest census report did not include projections at the state or local level, but continues to reflect the economy’s long-drawn-out and slow recovery, said John A. Rizzo, economics professor at Stony Brook University and chief economist at the Long Island Association, a business organization.
Rizzo said births and migration will not be enough in the long run to stanch population loss in Nassau and Suffolk counties, particularly when it comes to keeping a young and productive workforce.
“We cannot sit back and count on growing population to solve the demographic challenges facing Long Island” as many people are expected to reach retirement age by 2030.
“The demographic trends are that Long Island is going to get older,” Rizzo said.
Those projections “suggest health care costs will be going up at a time when revenues to finance that will be going down.” He says a mix of policy measures, including “more affordable housing, better transportation, rebuilding the town centers,” are needed to make the region appealing to young people.