While California's population continued to grow at a snail's pace last year, Orange County had the largest increase of any county in the state, the state Department of Finance reported Thursday.
The county grew by 43,300 people, a 1.7% increase, pushing the population to about 2.64 million people.
Statewide, the population grew only 1.2% from 1994 to 1995, tying the record low set in 1971. The rate was only slightly above the national figure.
"That's a powerful statement," said Peter Morrison, a demographer for Santa Monica-based RAND Corp. "California, which has never grown at the national average, is now just average."
Mary Haim, a Department of Finance demographer, said: "We can probably attribute it in part to the general economic slowdown. But we expect to see a turnaround in the not-too-distant future," possibly within one or two years.
Los Angeles, the state's largest city, experienced a flight of residents and a population decrease of 23,600. Los Angeles County grew only 0.3%.
Statewide, for the second year in a row, the city of San Diego acquired the most new residents, 12,900 people, for a population increase of 1.1%.
In Orange County, Tustin had the largest growth rate of 4.5%, for a total of 62,500. Anaheim gained the largest number of people, about 5,600.
The fastest-growing city in the state was Blythe, with a 28% increase. State officials attributed that to the opening of a state prison.
Five other cities grew more than 10% in 1994: Palm Desert, 23.2%; Brentwood, 13.4%; Coronado, 11.4%; Adelanto, 10.8%, and Temecula, 10.5%. Palm Desert annexed a large area, Coronado received people from a military base realignment, and Brentwood, Adelanto and Temecula added housing, officials said.
On a statewide level, the population growth of 392,000 during 1994 was made up of a natural increase of 360,000 (587,000 births and 227,000 deaths) and a migration of 32,000 people into the state.
"California has been exporting Americans from here to other parts of the nation," Morrison said. "But California has gotten itself into the business of making foreign immigrants into Americans. On the balance, California is a magnet."
Morrison said the state's population also is becoming younger. People over age 40 are migrating to other states and are being replaced mostly by people under 30, he said.
"We're positioning ourselves for an economic future," he said, "in which we will continue to have a young work force to offer the world economically."
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Reeling in Residents
Orange County was the fastest growing county in California during 1994, gaining another 43,300 residents. Anaheim was among the top 10 cities in the state which gained the most number of new people.
10 Fastest-Growing Counties: 1994-95 change 1. Orange: 43,300 2. San Diego: 33,100 3. Riverside: 32,200 4. Santa Clara: 24,200 5. San Bernardino: 23,700 6. Los Angeles: 23,300 7. Sacramento: 18,400 8. Alameda: 16,300 9. Fresno: 15,500 10. Contra Costa: 14,800
10 Fastest-Growing Cities: 1994-95 change
1. San Diego: 12,900 2. San Jose: 12,700 3. Bakersfield: 10,900 4. San Francisco: 8,900 5. Palmdale: 6,500 6. Palm Desert: 6,300 7. Fresno: 6,100 8. Anaheim: 5,600 9. Stockton: 4,900 10. Chula Vista: 4,100
Source: State Department of Finance