March 3, 2011 | Bloomberg Businessweek | Original Article

Latinos lead NC's population surge over decade

North Carolina's population of Latinos has more than doubled over the past decade, leading a statewide growth spurt that involved nearly all 100 counties, according to data released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The state's overall population jumped more than 18 percent from 2000 to 2010 and now totals more than 9.5 million. Much of that growth came in areas around Charlotte, Raleigh and Wilmington. Only a handful of counties lost residents, mostly rural ones in the northeastern part of the state.

Numbers show the Latino population doubling from less than 400,000 to more than 800,000. The number of white residents grew 13 percent while the black population grew 18 percent.

Gregorio Morales, 45, moved to North Carolina a little over three years ago. The native of Mexico had been living in California, but friends in North Carolina piqued his interest with tales of mild weather and a better cost of living.

"I was living in California, and it's kind of expensive there," said Morales, who owns a Raleigh-based landscaping business. "People told me North Carolina was a good place with nice weather where people can make some money."

Morales has found the state a welcoming place, saying he lives in a neighborhood where he has friends who are white, black and Latino.

The population figures will inform state lawmakers as they prepare to redraw state and federal districts for lawmakers. Because of the geographical differences over the past decade, the Census figures show a wide disparity in population within each of the state's 13 congressional districts.

Reps. David Price, a Democrat, and Sue Myrick, a Republican, now sit in districts that are well above the average population. Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield, meanwhile, now represents a district with almost 100,000 fewer people than the state average.

Wake County, home to Raleigh, added nearly 275,000 people over the decade. Mecklenburg County, home to Charlotte, added almost 225,000. Suburban counties surrounding the state's two largest cities also recorded heavy growth, with Union County outside of Charlotte expanding by 60 percent -- the highest in the state.