The Gary Division of the Chicago Metropolitan Area, which encompasses most of Northwest Indiana, grew by an estimated 576 residents last year in only the second population gain since 2010, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

The Gary metropolitan area, which consists of Lake, Porter, Jasper and Newton counties, maintained its long-standing place as the state’s second-largest metro with 701,386 residents — roughly as many as the city of Denver proper and slightly more than live within Boston city limits.

All of that growth was driven by people moving to Porter County, as Jasper, Newton and Lake counties all lost population.

"Lake County had the state’s second-largest drop at 355 residents," Indiana University demographer Matt Kinghorn wrote in a report for the Indiana Business Research Center. "For Lake County, this 0.1 percent decline actually represents a significant improvement, as the county averaged a decline of roughly 1,600 residents per year between 2010 and 2017."

The population of the Michigan City-LaPorte statistical area, which is just LaPorte County, grew by about 0.1% to just over 110,000 people.

Indiana's overall population grew by 0.5% or nearly 31,800 residents last year to bring the state's total population to 6.69 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It was the Hoosier state's largest annual population gain since 2009 but was much lower than when the Hoosier state added an average of 53,600 residents a year during the 1990s or an average of 40,300 people a year during the 2000s.

The Hoosier state has had a dramatic decline in births over the past decade. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates there were 81,075 births in Indiana last year, the least since 1987.

In-migration drove the state's population increase in 2018.

"Between 2010 and 2017, Indiana had an average annual net inflow of roughly 1,900 residents, yet this measure stood at nearly 12,800 residents in 2018," Kinghorn wrote in the report. "Not only does this number stand out in this largely low-migration period after the Great Recession, it is also significantly higher than the state’s average annual net inflow of 9,200 residents per year in the 2000s, although it is still well below the mark of 17,600 residents per year during the 1990s."

Most of the state population growth took place in Indianapolis and its surrounding suburban counties. The 11-county Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson metro area added about 22,000 residents last year, which accounted for 69% of the state's total population growth.

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