Census figures show slight gain in Washington, 3 percent drop in Greene

Rick Shrum
Observer Reporter

The perception that the Marcellus Shale boom has led to a regional population boom was dispelled, according to county estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The bureau estimated populations for all counties nationwide between April 1, 2010, and July 1, 2015. Pennsylvania State Data Center, based at Penn State’s Harrisburg campus, reported census figures for the state’s 67 counties Thursday.

Washington County gained 441 residents – from 207,820 to 208,261 – an 0.2 percent increase, while Greene lost 1,167 (38,686 to 37,519), a 3 percent decline that was 10th worst in the commonwealth.

That perception of shale-driven population growth should be tempered by the fact that many workers stay temporarily and move on to work elsewhere. Natural gas and oil drilling did peak during that 63-month period, but a number of laborers took rooms at hotels.

Some neighboring counties did not fare well. Allegheny gained 7,111 residents, but that was a mere 0.3 percent bump from 1,223,348 to 1,230,459. Fayette posted a 2.2 percent population decline (136,607 to 133,628, a loss of 2,979), and Westmoreland a 2 percent drop (365,169 to 357,956).

Westmoreland’s drop of 7,213 residents was second worst to Cambria, which had an estimated loss to 7,263.

Forty-three counties lost population, according to the Census Bureau. Pennsylvania, however, experienced an increase of 94,785.

Eight of the top 10 in percentage of growth were in the southeastern or south-central part of the state. Cumberland was first at 4.6 percent (235,408 to 246,338), followed by Centre (4.3), Chester (3.4), Lancaster (3.3) and Lehigh (3.2).

Philadelphia County had the largest numeric increase, 41,436.

Montgomery, Lancaster and Chester followed, and those four counties collectively accounted for 55.6 percent of Pennsylvania’s growth over the five-year period.

Outside of Southeastern and South-central Pennsylvania, Allegheny (7,111), Centre (6,599) and Butler (2,956) had the biggest gains.