Maricopa County saw biggest population growth in the U.S. last year

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Phoenix is both the county seat of Maricopa County and the capital of Arizona (Source: AP File Photo) Phoenix is both the county seat of Maricopa County and the capital of Arizona (Source: AP File Photo)
Click images to enlarge (Source: Census.gov) Click images to enlarge (Source: Census.gov)
Maricopa County flag (Source: Wikipedia) Maricopa County flag (Source: Wikipedia)
Seal of Maricopa County (Source: Wikipedia) Seal of Maricopa County (Source: Wikipedia)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Maricopa County had the highest population growth in the entire country in 2016 the United States Census Bureau announced Thursday.

Arizona’s largest county gained 81,360 people, an average of nearly 223 people per day – per day – between July 1, 2015, and July 1, 2016, according to bureau estimates.

Those numbers handily beat the previous record holder – Harris County, TX. Harris County had seen the largest growth number for eight consecutive years. With just 56,587 new residents – about 155 people per day – its streak at No. 1 ended.

[RELATED: Census Bureau reveals the fastest growing county in the nation]

"You've got a big metropolitan area. It's close to California, close to Mexico, and lots of opportunities," said Nikhil Cheerharan, who recently moved to Phoenix from Maryland. "This place is booming right now. Why wouldn't you want to be here?"

Maricopa County, home to Phoenix, primarily grew through the addition of 43,189 residents from net domestic migration, a measure of how many people move to or from an area versus other parts of the United States,” according to Census.gov. “The county also added 25,428 people from natural increase (more births than deaths) and 10,188 people from net international migration.”

There's one more column -- series of columns, really -- in the census data for all counties that covers variances in local, state and national reporting. That sum, 2,555, gets us to the grand total of 81,360.

[VISUALIZE THE NUMBERS: Infographic]

Phoenix realtor Sean McCarthy said that's good news for home values and the Valley's housing market. 

"Earlier this year, Realtor.com named us the best real estate market for 2017," said McCarthy. "When you couple that with a lot more people coming in, demand will be strong and the market should be strong for months to come."

[RELATED: Real estate website expects Phoenix to be top housing market in 2017]

County Board of Supervisors chairman Denny Barney said they've been planning for a bump in population for years, and having more people in the workforce can only help.

"Phoenix is a great jobs market right now," said Barney. "We've got a lot of great economic drivers: manufacturing, bioscience, health care and aerospace. People are coming here for jobs and that's good for the economy."

Maricopa County is no stranger to such significant growth.

"In the early 2000s, Maricopa County was in the top one or two counties by numeric growth. From 2009-2011, Maricopa County saw much lower net migration than in the years before or after, which caused the county to drop out of the top population-gaining counties," explained Peter Borsella, a demographer in the Census Bureau's population division. "While net international migration has not reached prior levels, net domestic migration and natural increase have continued to rise, making Maricopa County this year's largest numeric gainer."

Home to an estimated 4.2 million people (1.95 percent increase), Maricopa County is the fourth largest county in the nation behind Los Angeles County, Cook County, IL and Harris County. It also was the fastest growing county among the nation’s top 10 most populous counties.

Maricopa County covers an area of 9,224 square miles, making it one of the biggest counties in the U.S. It's physically larger than seven states.

More than half of Arizona's population lives in Maricopa County.

[RESOURCE: Top 10 largest-gaining counties (numeric change)]

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