These 5 counties have led NC population growth since the pandemic, Census Bureau says

Julia Wall/

Three coastal counties have been the fastest growing in North Carolina since the COVID-19 pandemic, with two suburban Wake County counties close behind, according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The populations of Brunswick, Currituck and Pender counties grew at a faster clip than any other between April 1, 2020, and last July 1. Brunswick, south of Wilmington, led at 12%, followed by Currituck at 10.4% and Pender at 9.2%.

Brunswick County’s growth in the year ending last July put it among the top 10 fastest counties in the country that year, according to the Census Bureau.

The next fastest growing counties were Johnston and Franklin, which each grew by 8.7% since April 2020, according to the Census Bureau. Wake County grew 4% during that period, or an estimated 45,628 people, to remain North Carolina’s largest county with nearly 1.2 million residents.

Durham County grew by a more modest 2.4%, Orange by 1.2% and Chatham by 4.7%.

Overall, North Carolina’s population grew an estimated 2.5% over the two-year period, to nearly 10.7 million residents.

But that growth remains uneven, as some rural counties continue to lose residents. Twenty-five of the state’s 100 counties lost population since 2020, 15 of them east of Interstate 95.