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Utah's population expanded last year at the fastest pace in more than a decade, with most of the new residents settling off the Wasatch Front.

The Utah Population Estimates Committee said population grew by an estimated 50,000 from July 1, 1993, to July 1, 1994. The 2.7 percent annual growth rate was the most robust in 12 years.Economist Jeanine M. Taylor of the state Office of Planning and Budget said people moving into the state accounted for 23,000 of the new residents - the largest annual net migration into Utah in four decades.

"The net in-migration for the past four years totals almost 80,000 and surpasses the net out-migration of 59,100 that occurred from 1984 to 1990," Taylor wrote in Utah Economic and Business Review this week.

In-migration is the difference between a change in population and the natural population increase. In 1994, natural growth - the number of births minus the number of deaths - accounted for an increase of 27,169 people.

Taylor said that while there were nearly 1,000 more births last year than in 1993, Utah's fertility rates appear constant. That has occurred despite in-migration bringing more women into the state.

Her report cites federal tax and census data showing California dominates the flow of migration to and from Utah. Employment is the primary motive behind the movement.

Taylor said Utah experienced a "remarkable employment growth rate" of 6.4 percent in 1994.

More than half of the new residents settled in nonmetropolitan areas of the state, with Washington County's 4,015 new residents leading the way.

The highest population growth rate belonged to Juab County at 9.7 percent. Washington County had the next highest growth at 8 percent, followed by Piute with 7.4 percent, Daggett and Summit at 7.1 percent and Grand's 6 percent.

Weber, Davis, Salt Lake and Utah counties - where roughly 77 percent of the state's population is concentrated - experienced growth of 2.9 percent or less.

Counties recording a growth rate of 1 percent or less were Box Elder and Garfield.

Taylor said migration to nonmetropolitan areas has increased over the past three years, indicating economic growth in non-Wasatch Front counties.

The trend puts pressure on small communities to accommodate the growth.

"New residents require government services . . . although these services may not be covered by the increased tax revenues generated by the in-migrants," Taylor said.

Her findings were published by the University of Utah's Bureau of Economic and Business Research.