HOUSTON (CN) - Houston's population increased by 145,000 in the past two years, the most of any city in the nation, the U.S. Census Bureau said.
The striking increase in population comes against a backdrop of dramatic job losses in the city and the surrounding metropolitan area.
Houston is among four Texas cities that together gained more residents than any U.S. state from July 1, 2014 to July 1, 2015, the Census Bureau announced Thursday.
Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio and their surrounding suburbs, account for the bulk of the state's population gains.
"These four Texas metro areas collectively added about 412,000 people. Texas as a whole gained about 490,000," according to the report.
Known as the "Energy Capital of the World" because it is home to more than 3,700 oil and gas-dependent companies, Houston lost more than 50,000 jobs in oil production, drilling equipment manufacturing and related white-collar jobs in the 12-month period ending in December 2015 as crude oil prices plummeted from around $60 to below $40, according to the University of Houston's Institute for Regional Forecasting.
The culprits behind the drop in the price of crude are hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, two drilling methods that came into vogue for U.S. producers in the late 2000s, allowing them to tap oil and gas in dense shale. The renaissance made the U.S. the world's leading energy producer, but also contributed to a market glut that devastated prices.
There's a silver lining, however, for Houston's economy. Cheap oil and natural gas has been a boon for refiners, who distill it into gasoline, jet fuel and petrochemicals that are used to make a wide-range of products, some of which seem counter intuitive: cellphones, computers, soap, deodorant, paint, insecticides, lipstick, shampoo, sunglasses and rubber, among dozens of others.
"In east Houston, the downstream refining and petrochemical industries are experiencing the greatest construction boom in the history of the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast with more than $50 billion in projects underway in Houston alone. Another 10,000 Houston-based construction workers are expected to be hired in 2016," according to a March 10 report from the University of Houston.
That growth offset Houston's oil job losses in 2015 for an estimated net gain of 15,200 jobs, the university reported, citing payroll data from the Texas Workforce Commission.
Besides Texas, Florida and the coastal regions of North Carolina and South Carolina have the fastest-growing cities in the nation, the Census Bureau reported.Follow @@cam_langford
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