FARGO-The cities of Fargo, West Fargo and Moorhead last year continued to see steady growth, adding a total of 5,026 residents, according to new census estimates.
Fargo led population growth with an estimated gain of 2,419, or 2.1 percent, bringing the city's population to 118,523 as of July 1, 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
West Fargo followed by adding 1,846 residents, or a gain of 5.8 percent, bringing its estimated total to 33,597-up from 25,830 counted in the 2010 census.
Moorhead added 761, or 1.8 percent, for a total of 42,005.
Combined, the three neighboring cities total 196,140, up more than 15 percent from the 2010 census. The estimated population for Cass and Clay counties is 233,836.
Kevin Iverson, manager of the North Dakota Census Office, said the figures continue Fargo-Moorhead's trend of steady growth. Fargo appears to have outpaced other North Dakota cities in raw growth, he said.
Also, the Census Bureau revised its 2014 estimate for Fargo, adding 241, an adjustment that made the estimated 2015 growth rate slightly lower than it otherwise would have been, Iverson said. "This is not terribly unusual," he said of the revision.
Elsewhere in North Dakota, Williston grew by 2,416, or 9.8 percent, and had an estimated population of 26,977, almost double its 2010 population of 14,716.
"That's pretty impressive," Iverson said. He predicts flatter numbers in the 2016 estimates in the Oil Patch, where drilling and production have slowed significantly with slumping oil prices.
North Dakota grew by almost 17,000 last year, according to estimates, and nine cities accounted for almost 15,500 residents-Fargo, Watford City, Williston, Bismarck, West Fargo, Minot and Dickinson, which all grew by 1,000 or more, as well as Grand Forks and Mandan, which grew by more than 500.
"What that pretty much says is the trend toward urbanization continues in the state," Iverson said. Many rural towns had populations that were stagnant or declining, continuing a longstanding trend.
Tim Solberg, a senior planner for the city of West Fargo, said he thought West Fargo's growth would be a bit higher than the census estimate of a 5.8 percent rise.
But he acknowledged that West Fargo lately has experienced a high apartment vacancy rate, although that trend looks to be changing. "Our apartments are starting to trail off," he said.
"We don't have any land for apartments," Solberg said. "But we're seeing a giant increase in more affordable single-family housing."
Kristie Leshovsky, city planner in Moorhead, believes the 2015 census estimate for the city, showing a gain of 761, does not reflect the roughly 1,200 residents that joined the city early last year when the city annexed part of Oakport Township.
"I think the population estimate is quite underestimating our population growth during that time," she said. "I'm guessing they didn't include that annexation."
Fargo city planners were unavailable for comment on the population estimates Wednesday.