No Utah city led the nation in growth last year, but over a dozen communities gained at least 1,000 new residents between 2022 and 2023, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The state also topped the U.S. in housing unit growth for the third straight year, increasing its housing stock by 2.5% between July 1, 2022, and July 1, 2023, according to two new datasets the federal agency released on Thursday.

Both datasets offer a clearer picture of the state and county trends previously released over the past few months.

"Some similar trends stuck around," said Mallory Bateman, director of demographic research at the University of Utah Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, after reviewing the data.

Utah's growing communities

Unsurprisingly, three Utah County cities led the state in community growth after the county gained an estimated 16,482 residents between mid-2022 and mid-2023. Lehi, Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain combined to account for nearly three-fourths of the growth, as the county's northern end fills out.

This is a trend that has lasted for years.

The same three cities and Payson, on the southern end, claimed four of the five largest percentage growth spikes among cities with at least 20,000 residents. Saratoga Springs' estimated population surpassed 50,000 residents for the first time last year; it's one of 17 Utah cities above the magical number the Census Bureau uses to define a "large city."

Town houses continue to be built in the Saratoga Springs area on Nov. 14, 2023. The Census Bureau reports that the city surpassed 50,000 residents for the first time by July, 1 2023. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

St. George, in southwest Utah, and Utah's capital, Salt Lake City, rounded out the Top 5 in year-over-year numeric growth.

Salt Lake City also padded its lead as the state's most-populated city with an estimated 209,593 residents, over 75,000 residents more than any other Utah city.

Utah's fastest-growing communities in 2023

Numeric growth

  • Lehi: 5,849
  • Saratoga Springs: 3,219
  • Eagle Mountain: 2,810
  • St. George: 2,017
  • Salt Lake City: 1,916
  • West Haven, Weber County: 1,663
  • Payson: 1,529
  • Syracuse: 1,484
  • Spanish Fork: 1,415
  • American Fork: 1,289

Percentage growth

  • West Haven, Weber County: 7.4%
  • Lehi: 6.9%
  • Payson: 6.8%
  • Saratoga Springs: 6.5%
  • Eagle Mountain: 5.2%
  • Syracuse: 4.2%
  • Hurricane, Washington County: 3.8%
  • Washington, Washington County: 3.6%
  • American Fork: 3.5%
  • Spanish Fork: 3.2%

Note: Figures are based on residents gained between the 2022 and 2023 Census Bureau population estimates. Only populations of 20,000+ were considered for the percentage growth list.

However, there were some other fast-growing Utah communities in 2023 beyond the usual suspects.

West Haven, in Weber County, made large gains in both numeric and percentage growth as it continues its surge up Utah's population charts. It placed sixth in numeric growth with 1,663 new residents, while its growth rate of 7.4% was highest among cities with at least 20,000 residents. More than a quarter of its estimated population of 24,014 residents has come since the official 2020 census.

Bateman believes West Haven's growth mirrors trends in northern Utah County. That is, communities in and around the Wasatch Front with room for new housing are typically where the largest population gains are happening.

Utah's 10 most-populated cities in 2023

  1. Salt Lake City: 209,593
  2. West Valley City: 134,470
  3. West Jordan: 114,908
  4. Provo: 113,343
  5. St. George: 104,578
  6. Orem: 95,519
  7. Sandy: 91,943
  8. Lehi: 90,227 (up one spot from 2022)
  9. Ogden: 87,267 (down one spot from 2022)
  10. South Jordan: 84,528

Meanwhile, Garden City, in Rich County, led the state in percentage growth among communities of any size, growing by almost 13% as it surpassed 700 residents in 2023. It may seem small, but the Census Bureau pointed out that Rich County's 8.5% housing stock increase was second in the nation last year.

This was the only Census Bureau finding that surprised Bateman. The Gardner Policy Institute tracks population trends and housing permits with slightly different datasets, and there was nothing there that indicated it could be second in the nation in unit growth aside from short-term rentals.

"There might be an asterisk on that," she told, pointing to a 2022 institute report that found short-term rentals accounted for about a quarter of all Garden City homes in 2020.

Wasatch County (6.1%) tied with Billings County, North Dakota, for fourth in housing stock growth. This was less surprising because it was the state's fastest-growing county between 2010 and 2020. Hideout — a town near Jordanelle Reservoir — grew by nearly 7%, the fifth-highest percentage growth in the state.

The cities in decline

The community data doesn't explain why some cities grow faster than others or why some lose population, but it does show where Salt Lake County — Utah's most-populated county — lost a sliver of its population. The agency previously estimated that the county lost nearly 800 residents between 2022 and 2023.

Despite the combined estimated growth of 5,067 residents in Salt Lake City, South Jordan, Draper and Herriman, losses in other parts of the county stunted its gains. West Valley City, West Jordan, Sandy, Millcreek, Taylorsville and Holladay represented the bottom six in year-over-year population changes, losing an estimated 6,930 residents.

The state's fastest-growing county isn't immune to this trend, even if it's at a lesser rate. Orem, Springville, Pleasant Grove and Provo — four of Utah County's largest cities — lost a combined 1,555 residents from its 2022 estimates, rounding out the bottom 10 in year-over-year change.

Bateman said there are a few possible factors for this, but the first that comes to mind is the opposite of what the fast-growing Wasatch Front communities have: space.

"(These) are places that may not be fully built-out, but they are getting close," she said.

Building construction continues with a crane in downtown Salt Lake City on Oct. 3, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

This could explain the outlier of Salt Lake City. It doesn't have the space to build outward as other fast-growing cities, so it's now building up. Large-scale apartment units are popping up all over the city as it builds density.

The city increased planning applications and housing permits over the past four years to meet massive housing demands and shortages, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said.

"We've grown our capacity to keep up with that need," she said.

Bateman said near-built-out communities may have to look at similar redevelopment if growth matters to them.

She's also curious about how current housing trends could reshape future growth. Higher interest rates and project costs have slowed some housing projects down since July 1, 2023, which could show up in next year's report. It could shake up the next fastest-growing community list.

That remains to be seen.