Long Island mirrors a national trend showing modest gains in the Hispanic population from 2008 to 2009, a growth that has helped propel an overall increase of minorities nationwide and locally, according to U.S. Census Bureau population estimates released Thursday.

"Increase in diversity . . . [particularly among] the Hispanic and Asian populations" is the story in New York, said Robert Scardamaglia, director of the Center for Research and Information Analysis at the State Data Center. "New York continues to age and become a more diverse state."

The story is much the same for Long Island, said Seth Forman, chief planner for the Long Island Regional Planning Council. Noting the Hispanic increase, he said, "Half of our immigration flow is from Central America, through Mexico. It's people who have networks with people who have established themselves [here]."

There could be a slowing of immigration in 2010, Forman predicted, because of the stagnant economy the 2009 estimates might not fully reflect. "When there's fewer jobs, people come at a slower rate," he said.

Still, Forman said the percentage of Hispanics on Long Island may not fall "because they tend to have higher birthrates."

The Hispanic population "remains the largest and fastest growing minority group" in the nation, said Robert Bernstein, a bureau spokesman. The bureau said Hispanics comprised 15.8 percent of the nation's estimated 307 million people in 2009, up from 15.4 percent in 2008. On Long Island, Hispanics comprised nearly 13.5 percent of the population in 2009, up from 13 percent a year earlier.

Of the nation's 3,143 counties, Bernstein said the percent of the Hispanic population in Suffolk was the 40th largest, and Nassau's was the 47th largest. (The Bronx ranked 12th and Queens, 14th.) Nassau, Suffolk and New York City's boroughs also constitute some of the most populous counties in the country.

"The minority population [nationwide] . . . grew 2.2 percent from 2008 to 2009," Bernstein said. "They now make up 34.9 percent [107.2 million] of the total population."

Locally, minorities comprised 31.9 percent of Nassau's population in 2009, a 3.7 percent increase from 2008, and 25.7 percent of Suffolk's, a 2.8 percent increase, Bernstein said.

Among the nation's counties, Nassau's minority population ranks 46th and Suffolk's is 55th.

The bureau's 2009 estimates are the last to use the 2000 census as a base, updated with records on births, deaths and domestic and international migration. The 2010 census county results are to be released next year.

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