RALEIGH, N.C. — Five North Carolina counties are among the 100 fastest growing in the nation, according to the Census Bureau.
The growth from 2000-2003 reflects a national trend in which high growth is occurring in counties that ring metropolitan areas.
Union County, which borders Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, led North Carolina with a 17.9 percent increase, adding 22,214 people. The county's population was 145,986 as of July 2003.
Union County has been fast-growing for more than a decade, swelling by 46.9 percent during the 1990s, said state demographer William Tillman Jr. It was 24th fastest growing county in the nation.
He said the growth is fueled by people moving from Mecklenburg County for more open space. Also, highway improvements in the area have made commuting more feasible, he said.
"Most growth in North Carolina is not due to babies; most growth is due to migration," he said. "What it points to is people don't really want to live in high-density housing in North Carolina."
No. 95 Johnston County, which added 14,878 people for a 12.2 percent increase, grew largely because workers in Raleigh moved from Wake County to new subdivisions built in neighboring Johnston.
"If you have an economic engine in a place like Wake County then I wouldn't be surprised that an adjacent county would feel the growth in Johnston," Tillman said.
Other North Carolina counties breaking the top 100 were Currituck at No. 54 with 2,644 people added, a 14.5 percent increase. Camden County placed 61st, adding 978 people for a 14.2 percent increase.
Chatham County grabbed the 100th slot, growing by 5,909, or 12 percent.
Nationally, four of the 10 fastest-growing counties are in suburban Atlanta, the Census Bureau reported.
Job opportunities and affordable housing are drawing people from around the country to the four counties, which form a semicircle around the city, officials said.
The nation's fastest growing county is Loudoun County in Virginia, which added 52,147 people -- 0.7 percent increase.