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Fort Worth adds an estimated 9,360 people in 2011

Fort Worth was the fastest-growing city in North Texas last year, but the pace has slowed dramatically compared to its heady pre-recession gains.

Cowtown added 9,360 people in 2011 for a total of 757,810, a modest increase over the 7,244 it picked up in 2010, according to population estimates released last week by the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

In 2006, at the height of the Barnett Shale gas boom and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Fort Worth added 37,000 residents. But that slowed to around 16,000 a year from 2007 to 2009 before dropping by more than half in 2010.

The population estimates are based on housing inventories in cities in the 16-county region, said Donna Coggeshall, research manager for the council.

After Fort Worth, the largest gains among cities were recorded by Frisco (3,830), McKinney (3,170) and Dallas (1,930).

The next biggest gainers in Tarrant County were Mansfield (650), Keller (500), Arlington (330) and North Richland Hills (290).

The fastest-growing county was Denton, which added 13,080 people. It narrowly edged Tarrant (12,990) and Collin (12,240).

Dallas County remains the largest at 2,385,990, followed by Tarrant (1,831,230), Collin (804,390) and Denton (683,010).

Hood County had the highest percentage growth (5.6 percent), adding 2,880 for a total population of 54,300.

Overall, the 16-county region grew by 56,160 for a total population of 6,640,290.

The new estimates reflect the lingering effects of the recession, the report says. Housing unit completion levels in the last two years have been similar to what was last seen in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the economy was also in recovery mode.

The relatively cautious housing activity translated into equally tepid population growth, the report says.

In 2011, Dallas-Fort Worth had about 14,000 home starts, compared with about 51,000 in 2006, said Ted Wilson, a principal with Dallas-based Housing Strategies, which tracks the housing market. An additional 9,300 apartment units were built in 2011, he said.

"We see the market moving in a positive direction with gradual improvement," Wilson said. "We think the start rates will probably pick up 2,000 to 3,000 units per year for the foreseeable future."

Steve Campbell, 817-390-7981

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