Although disappointed, city officials now acknowledge that the recent census count that found Lakewood lost population over the last decade is correct.
The city had anticipated a boost in population because there are a 1,000 more addresses in the city than a decade ago.
So officials were flummoxed when the U.S. Census Bureau reported last week that Pierce County’s second-largest city lost 48 people in 10 years, from 58,211 in 2000 to 58,163 in 2010.
Why the concern? Because more people mean more money for cities as federal and state governments apportion many revenues based on population.
Further study by Lane DeLarme, the city’s information services manager, appears to verify that finding.
“I will continue to look for potential areas of challenge, but what I have seen so far suggests that the Census Bureau did their job correctly and that the count for Lakewood, though disappointing, is accurate,” he wrote in a memo that City Manager Andrew Neiditz presented to the City Council on Monday night, the 15th anniversary of the city’s incorporation.
The census count confirmed that Lakewood has 1,203 more addresses in 2010 compared to 2000.
However, just 306 of those additional households were occupied, a significantly higher vacancy rate that DeLarme attributed in part to the large-scale deployment of personnel at Joint Base Lewis-McChord when the census was taken. Many JBLM service members live in Lakewood.
The increase in additional occupied dwellings was negated by the decrease in household size, from 2.45 in 2000 to 2.42 in 2010. A decrease of less than one-half of 1 percent may not seem like a lot. Spreading that over Lakewood’s population, however, translates into an estimated loss of 800 people.
DeLarme attributed the small drop in occupied household size to two main factors: the loss of more than 200 patients housed at Western State Hospital, located within the city limits, and the decrease in the population under the age of 18. The percentage of children and teenagers living in Lakewood dropped from 24.43 percent in 2000 to 22.74 percent last year, which DeLarme said indicates there are more “empty nest” households in the city.