It appears that Arizona isn’t quite the magnet it used to be for folks in the other 49 states.
New figures Wednesday from the U.S. Census Bureau show the state posted its lowest rate of population growth since the beginning of the decade.
And the big reason is that net migration to Arizona from elsewhere in the country slowed to a virtual crawl in the 12 months ending July 1. The population grew barely more than 15,000, from “snowbirds’’ and others.
By contrast, that net domestic migration figure for the 12 prior months was almost 63,000.
And in the year ending July 1, 2005, Arizona added almost 124,000 new residents from other states alone.
Overall, Arizona’s population was just under 6.6 million residents as of last July.
The sharp decline in people moving from other states should come as no surprise. Economists have been saying for months that people can’t move to Arizona until they are able sell their homes elsewhere.
At the same time, the recession has decimated the retirement savings plans of many. That means they have to keep their jobs, wherever they are, postponing that retirement move to Arizona.
All of that translates to continued bad news for the state’s economy. As long as there is an oversupply of unsold homes, the construction industry won’t be hiring workers to build more.
Yet, even as Arizona did not call out to other U.S. residents, the magnet apparently remains for those from outside the United States.
The Census report put the net increase in Arizona residents from elsewhere for the most recent 12-month period at just under 27,000. That is up from slightly more than 23,000 during the prior year.
The bottom line is that the state’s population growth is slowing dramatically.
Arizona grew by just 96,401 in the year the Census Bureau measured, or just 1.5 percent. That compares with a 2.2 percent increase in the prior 12 months, 2.7 percent for the year before that, and 3.6 percent between July 2005 and July 2006.
The overall figure takes into account all factors that contribute to population growth. Births in Arizona have slowed.
In that most recent 12-month period there were 103,956 babies born in Arizona. That compares with 106,737 for the same period a year earlier.
Marshall Vest, an economist at the University of Arizona, said the recession could be a factor here, too.
“The uncertainty of your income stream may very well cause people to delay their decision to have a family,’’ he said.
But Vest said there’s also a demographic factor. And some of that relates directly to the construction industry.
The latest figures from the Arizona Department of Commerce put employment in that sector of the economy at just 131,800. That’s barely 53 percent of what it was at its peak in June 2006.
Vest said much of the labor in that industry in Arizona has been Hispanic, whether legally here or otherwise. And many of these families, without employment, have left the state.
This has a ripple effect on population: The birth rate of Hispanics in Arizona is twice as high as other segments of the population that do not identify themselves as Hispanic.
Vest said that same pattern likely holds true in other segments of the economy that had employed large numbers of undocumented workers.
At the same time, though, the number of people dying is up, from 45,850 between 2007 and 2008 to 49,657.
But as slow as the growth is, it was still enough to propel Arizona up by one slot, to the 14th most populous state in the nation, sliding ahead of Massachusetts.
The Census Bureau had reported a year ago that Arizona was No. 14. But some revised figures for 2008 released Thursday show that Arizona’s actual population on July 1, 2008, was 803 less than reported at the time — and Massachusetts really had 45,628 more people on that date than estimated.