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Alaska's population grows for first time in 5 years

The state's population growth accelerated slightly last year, according to new estimates.

A major reason for the increased growth was the influx of military personnel and their families to Anchorage, according to the Alaska Department of Labor, which released the estimates Tuesday.

For the first time in five years, the state gained more people than it lost due to migration. In 2008, for example, the state lost more than 1,800 people due to net out-migration to other states or countries. Last year, the state gained 2,261 people due to net in-migration from other places.

U.S. Census data shows that nearly half of the migrants came from outside the United States. While some people might be moving to Alaska to look for work, it appears that most of the migrants last year were troops and their families, said Greg Williams, the state demographer. He crunches the annual population estimates for the department.

That jibes with some Army statistics released last year. The Army said it has doubled the population of active-duty soldiers stationed at Anchorage's Fort Richardson in recent years. Last year, roughly 70 percent of those Fort Rich solders had deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. The state's population estimates for 2009 count the deployed soldiers as Alaska residents, according to Williams.

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