Data Dives

Redmond Grew More Than Any Washington City During Covid Quarantining

But other Eastside suburbs didn’t see similar population bumps.

By Benjamin Cassidy May 31, 2022

Aerial shot of Redmond

Redmond is in a growth spurt.

During the dog days of pandemic quarantining, we wondered whether Seattle’s suburban exodus was real or imagined. The 2020 U.S. Census didn’t offer any more clarity. It only considered our population as of April 1, 2020, or just a few virtual happy hours into shutdowns. But Thursday’s reveal of the 2021 population estimate is our best guess yet for how remote work affected our local headcount.

The answer: not as dramatically as we might have thought. On July 1, 2021, about 733,919 called Seattle home, compared to an estimated 738,172 a year earlier, per the Bureau. The 4,253-person drop shaved less than one percent from our city’s numbers. Not exactly a headline-grabbing dive, especially when compared to the 6 percent (!) population plummet in San Francisco. Some of those San Franciscans undoubtedly replaced our recent move-outs.

The most noteworthy figures instead belonged to the suburbs. Redmond, the home of Microsoft and Tesla STEM, added more residents than any other city in Washington. With a nearly 3,000-person bump, its population now sits north of 76,000, or 4 percent more than on July 1, 2020.

Proportionally speaking, Black Diamond grew more than any other place in the state. A single-family development boom in cow pasture country led to a 17 percent hike in population.

Tallies for other suburbs stood out for the opposite reason. Despite all the chatter about suburban flight, many of the cities around Seattle lost population. Of note:

  • Bellevue’s population declined by 1.6 percent, a little steeper than Shoreline and Sammamish’s 1.3 percent clippings;
  • Kent, previously considered one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S., saw a 1.3 percent drop;
  • And neighbors Renton, Federal Way, and Auburn all experienced at least a 1.5 percent decline.

Add it all up and King County likely had its first population decline in almost 50 years. Likely, because the Census Bureau arrives at these numbers based on housing unit estimates; it’s not as exacting a calculation as the actual decennial count.

The agency’s methodology did find that migration to other U.S. counties played a role in our shrinkage. So if there really was an exodus from Seattle, maybe it was to suburbs in other states. Some of Boise’s surrounding cities, for instance, were among the fastest-growing in the country.

You can find the latest population estimates for those places, and other major cities and Zoom towns, here.

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