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A continued downward trend

By Staff | Jun 24, 2010

Since Rugby’s last official census count released in the spring of 2001, population estimates for Pierce County’s largest city has steadily declined.

And the last estimate of the decade was no exception.

Recently released figures put Rugby’s 2009 population at 2,510 – a drop of 49 from the last estimate.

It’s debatable just how accurate these estimates really are, and city officials don’t get too caught up in the numbers.

Officially, Rugby still claims its population at 2,939, but that will change once the Census Bureau releases the 2010 figure some time next year. It’s a good bet the city’s population will drop, but just how big of a drop is the question.

Karla Harmel, city auditor-administrator, hasn’t seen any recent estimates, but said when the official census is released next year, she wouldn’t be surprised if it’s higher than the most recent estimate of 2,510.

Harmel doesn’t put too much stock in estimates, since they don’t often include a number of factors.

Recent estimates suggest that outmigration is a main factor in population drops in the county as well as deaths outpacing births, according to census data.

Indicators over the past few years suggest the declining population trend in the city might be leveling off. Enrollment in the school district has been at par or actually showed small gains in recent years. There continues to be a waiting list to find rental properties in town and few homes are on the market.

It’s been reported in the past few years of a mini baby boom. However, gauging birth records is difficult since they take place out of town. Harmel also said there is a good number of residents who work out of the region, especially in the oil fields in western North Dakota.

Another factor to consider is the recently conducted census count. Just over 85 percent of county residents mailed back their census questionnaire which was a 10 percent greater return than in 2000. That could factor into the population outcome for both the city and county.

Pierce County’s population has also been reportedly declining over the past 10 years, and the latest estimate puts the county’s figure at 3,990. While some have left farmsteads, some have relocated into Rugby.

Population boom in the West

As predicted, estimated population gains came in the western region of the state, attributed to the booming oil activity. Williston as well as other nearby small towns reportedly saw increases. However, city officials there are also questioning the accuracy of those estimates. They believe there is even more growth.

Census estimates provided by N.D. State Data Center

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