Tri-Cities still in slow growth mode; Fewer deaths, more births help drive Sullivan Co. increase


The Tri-Cities took another baby step toward population growth in 2019, according to the Census Bureau’s Population Estimates. But, as in past years, while the Tri-Cities took baby steps its neighbors were striding. And, when you drill down to the county levels there’s a couple of surprises.

The was only one regional Consolidated Statistical Area (CSA) with a natural population growth last year – Chattanooga. That means there were more births than deaths. The other three had more deaths than births, so their growth came from attracting new residents. Knoxville led the region in that endeavor, while Johnson City-Kingsport-Bristol attracted the least number of new residents. The good news was the local rate for attracting new residents increased from 0.2% in 2018 to 0.5% in 2019.

When it comes to counties six of the 10 locals in the Tri-Cities region (that includes Greene Co. which is not part of the Johnson City-Kingsport-Bristol CSA) saw some population increase. The local area did a little better than what was reported for the nation. In the national count, 51.2% of counties gained population while 60% of the locals grew.

Locally Sullivan Co. had the most net growth (749 people) and Washington Co. TN was close second adding 714. Growth in the other counties was in the mid-double digits. Johnson Co. had the lease growth – 14 people.

Where Sullivan Co. picked up that growth wasn’t all in attracting new residents, but it did lead the region by attracting 1,202 new residents. It also had the largest decline in the number of deaths (down 122) and the largest increase in live births (up 30). Last year was the third straight year Sullivan has led the regional migration gains.

Washington Co. TN had a weaker population growth because the number of deaths in the county increased by 64 persons. The number of births increased by five from 2018. Washington attracted 860 new residents last year compared to 1,266 new residents in 2018.