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LA County is nation's most populous — still

The Los Angeles skyline from the top of Runyon Canyon Park in Hollywood.

Los Angeles remains the nation's most populous county by far, with 10.1 million people living within its borders, according to the latest population data from the United States Census.

The new numbers bring home the sheer size of the county, which is home to more people than Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan, New Jersey or Virginia.

Overall, Los Angeles County gained 62,710 residents in the most recent year tracked by the census. For overall population growth, that was the third highest figure in the country. When looking at the rate of growth in comparison to current populations, however, several other counties were ahead of Los Angeles — Williams County, North Dakota, came in first.

These population estimates show how the county and region are changing, though the numbers don't break down race, ethnicity or income. They are instead a snapshot of the population as of July 1, 2014, and show that in the year before that date Los Angeles County had:

  • 131,668 births
  • 63,063 deaths
  • 52,572 people moved to L.A. County from another country
  • 53,504 people moved out of L.A. County

Many of those who left may not have moved far. Another recent Census data release showed that moves from Los Angeles to neighboring counties were some of the nation's most common.

Walter Schwarm of the California Department of Finance's Demographics Research Unit says that the outflow of residents reflects "some growing unaffordability in L.A. County. That prices have moved up a little bit." He added that the Inland Empire "is a natural escape for someone looking for cheaper housing."

'California is doing fairly well'

Census figures show that Los Angeles County has been home to more Americans than any other county since 1960, when it leapt ahead of Illinois' Cook County. Cook County, which is home to Chicago, has been at No. 2 ever since. With 5.2 million residents in July 2014, its population is just over half the size of L.A. County's.

In the most recent census release, several California counties appear near the top of the list. That's no surprise: California has some of the largest counties in the country. "We're part of this Western thing where I guess people just got tired of making counties, so they made huge ones," Schwarm said, noting that California has counties "the size of Delaware."

Along with Los Angeles, four other Southern California counties show up near the top of the census data:

  • San Diego County was the fifth most populous, with 3.3 million residents
  • Orange County was the sixth most populous, with 3.1 million residents
  • Riverside County was the tenth most populous, with 2.3 million residents
  • San Bernardino was the eleventh most populous, with 2.1 million residents

If you combine those totals with the 10.1 million people who live in Los Angeles, the population in those five counties (21 million) represents more than half of California.
More than a quarter of Californians live in Los Angeles County.

Schwarm says that population growth statewide "really does indicate that California is doing fairly well and better than other places in the nation in terms of picking its economy back up." But he notes that much of the economic energy is coming from the Bay Area, not Southern California.

The state's population as of July 1, 2014 was 38.8 million. Its five most populous counties were all in the state's south, but the next five are in Northern California or the Central Valley.