The U.S. Census Bureau released population statistics Thursday showing Virginia’s population has increased in the recent years, largely as a result of growth in Northern Virginia. According to the U.S. Census Bureau website, the 2013 state population is 8,260,405, about 1 percent higher than last year. Population rose 3.2 percent in Virginia overall from 2010 to 2013, while Fairfax County population rose 4.5 percent in the same time. Fairfax County population accounts for about 13.7 percent of total Virginia population. “We’ve already seen that growth in Northern Virginia and the type of growth in terms of the population makeup of that area has exerted a large influence on Virginia politics,” Skelley said. Loudoun County also fueled population growth in Virginia, with a 4 percent increase from 2012 to 2013. Loudoun and Fairfax join Arlington and Prince William counties areas with the largest growth rates in the state. Alleghany and Dickenson counties, both in the western part of the state, as well as Goochland county, a Richmond suburb, are some of the counties with the highest population loss rates. The Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University produces estimates independently of the Census Bureau using different data, but with similar results. A press release from the Center shows Virginia’s overall growth is the slowest it has been since before the recession. The population growth from 2012 to 2013 was 73,777. Hamilton Lombard, a demographics specialist from the Weldon Cooper Center, said the numbers from 2010 to 2013 paint a fuller picture than those from 2012 to 2013, which the Census Bureau just released. The Center cites the cause of growth, especially in Northern Virginia, as the prevalence of more births than deaths. Lombard also said the Center has seen growth in urban areas because they have larger rental markets. Since the recession, more people are more likely to rent rather than buy a home. “People are looking where they can rent homes, areas like Charlottesville and Harrisonburg,” Lombard said. The housing market, he said, is a large factor in population trends. Center for Politics spokesperson Geoff Skelley said the growth in Northern Virginia will continue to shift Virginia politically. “We’ve already seen that growth in Northern Virginia and the type of growth in terms of the population makeup of that area has exerted a large influence on Virginia politics,” Skelley said. While Virginia was previously a reliably conservative state, it is now a “Category One” swing state according to the Center for Politics because of the growing population in the traditionally liberal areas of Virginia, Skelley said.