Gallatin County is still growing.

Gallatin County’s population has nearly hit 112,000, according to new estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau released Thursday. That’s up 22,363 people — or 25% — from 2010.

The new numbers chart populations in Montana through July 1, 2018. Gallatin County outpaces all other counties in the state over the last eight years.

“It’s what everybody already knows, a lot of people want to live in Gallatin County,” said Bryce Ward, co-founder of ABMJ Consulting and an economist with the University of Montana. “It has a growing economy, decent jobs and is a nice place to live.”

Most of those arrivals — 16,853 — are people who moved to the area. The rest is home-grown, as in more people having babies than dying.

More people comes with some tension.

Ward said Gallatin County remains relatively affordable compared to other popular places in the nation, though it hasn’t avoided a rising cost of living. And for some, more people in town threatens the home they’ve known.

The county’s ongoing population increase continues to make top lists. It ranked 29th in the nation for its growth over the last decade and 60th for the new number of people the area collected from 2017 to 2018.

Madison County’s 380 new residents bumped Gallatin from the title of the fastest-growing place in Montana over the last year — that’s a growth rate of 4.5% from 2017 to 2018 compared to Gallatin County’s 3%.

That’s actually a slower pace of arrivals for Gallatin than the last two years. Ward said most of Montana’s most populous counties echoed that slight ebb.

“It’s too early and too little to read too much into,” Ward said. “These are fractions of a percent.”

As far as Montana’s overall picture, not a lot has changed. With roughly 9,200 new people, the state continues to hover just above 1 million people.

The story of Montana’s population changes are more complicated than the boom-or-bust narrative of towns out West.

There are places like Gallatin that have an increase in both people who move to town and newborns. Places like Toole, Rosebud and Custer counties have seen a dip in new neighbors, but residents had enough kids that the populations remained somewhat level.

“Then there are the scary spots, like Fergus County, where people are dying off and people aren’t moving there,” Ward said.

The Census Bureau hasn’t released estimations broken down by towns. For people in Bozeman, who are counting on classifying as a small city with 50,000 residents in the 2020 census, that’s something to look forward to.

Katheryn Houghton can be reached at khoughton@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628. Follow her on Twitter @K_Hought.

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