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The state's population has increased almost 4 percent since 2010, easily outpacing the Northeast as a whole and lagging only slightly behind the national growth rate, according to new estimates from the US Census Bureau.

With an increase of about 40,000 people from July 2014 to July 2015, Massachusetts was the fastest growing state in the Northeast for the fifth consecutive year. Three Northeast states, Maine, Vermont, and Connecticut, lost population in the past year.

The Northeast region comprises New England, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Nationally, the population has increased 4.1 percent since 2010, to more than 321 million. The vast majority of the growth occurred in the South and West. While population in the Northeast increased by just 112,000 last year, the South's increased by almost 1.4 million.

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Susan Strate, senior program manager of the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute's Population Estimates Program, said that while the state's growth rate slowed slightly in the past year, it remains almost three times higher than the Northeast and Midwest regions.

The state is growing much faster than in previous years. Since 2010, its population has climbed 0.7 percent per year on average, compared to 0.3 percent annually from 2000 to 2010.

The state continues to lose residents to other parts of the country but experienced a strong influx of immigrants that more than offset the losses.

"Massachusetts is a strong attractor of immigrants," Strate said.

As a result, the state had a net gain of 21,700 people in migration overall, compared to New York, which lost almost 24,000, Strate said.

The net loss of residents to other states peaked in 2005 at more than 55,000. In the past year, it lost about 22,000.

"On the whole they are moving west and south," Strate said.

With nearly 6.8 million people, Massachusetts is the nation's 15th most populous state. The top 10 are California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, and Michigan.

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By adding an average of more than 280 people per day during the past year, North Carolina passed the 10 million mark in population, according to the Census Bureau.

For the fourth year in a row, North Dakota was the fastest-growing state, with an increase of 2.3 percent. It was followed by Colorado, the District of Columbia, and Nevada.

Secretary of State William F. Galvin said the growth rate "bodes well for the Commonwealth retaining its congressional delegation in the reapportionment after 2020."


Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globepete.