The pace of population growth in greater Seattle was slower in 2003 than in any year in the past two decades. The main reason is that net migration is at its lowest level since the early 1980s. In fact, net migration fell well below natural increase in 2003, as in 2002-a rare state of affairs since 1960. Only 5,000 more people moved into King, Kitsap, Pierce, and Snohomish counties than moved out of them in 2003, according to estimates just published by the Puget Sound Regional Council (pdf).

Natural increase-births minus deaths-has also been moderating recently, as you can (sort of) see in this (fuzzy) chart. Natural increase, the golden line on the chart, is at its lowest level since the late 1970s.

The main explanation of these trends is that fewer people migrate into the Northwest when the Northwest economy is underperforming the North American economy overall, as at present.

The more interesting story is that births are at one of their lowest levels ever, as we discussed here. The best news is that teen births are especially low.

So, while no one rejoices over high unemployment rates, the region is enjoying a welcome demographic reprieve.