Maricopa County remains one of the nation’s strongest population magnets, census figures show.
In fact, only one county in the nation — Los Angeles — added more people between the 2000 census and July 1, according to new estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau.
In that time, Maricopa County grew by an estimated 317,111 people.
That’s more than lived in Chandler and Gilbert combined when the census was taken on April 1, 2000.
Harry Wolfe, senior project manager for the Maricopa County Association of Governments, said the census guess might actually be a bit low.
He said the state Department of Economic Security believes about 3,396,000 people lived in the county as of last July, roughly 7,000 more than the federal estimate.
Stunning growth is no new story here.
"Between 1990 and 2000, we added more than any other county in the United States by 200,000 people," Wolfe said.
Maricopa County grew by nearly a million over that decade.
If current estimates hold, the phenomenal attraction of Maricopa County will continue indefinitely.
Last summer, MAG projected a 2010 county population of 4.1 million, growing to more than 6.1 million by 2030. End-of-century estimates have reached as high as 13 million.
Pinal County is seeing the beginnings of its own population boom. Pinal added 24,421 people between April 2000 and July 2003, the census bureau said.
Its 13.6 percent growth rate placed it among the nation’s top 100 counties in terms of growth percentage.
Wolfe cited a variety of reasons for the region’s continuing appeal: Warm weather, a decent supply of jobs and below-average housing prices.
"It just amazes me when I hear people in Southern California talk about how they got a steal because they got a house for $350,000," Wolfe said. "And these are people who don’t necessarily have high incomes."