After a one-year slip, Nevada has reclaimed its stake as the fastest growing state in the country, according to a recently released U.S. Census Bureau report.

Nevada’s population increased by 2.9 percent between July 1, 2006 and July 1,2007. Nevada had been the fastest-growing state for 19 years in a row, until Arizona took the number one spot last year. Arizona came in second place this year, with a growth rate of 2.8 percent between 2006 and 2007.

According to Jeff Hardcastle, Nevada State Demographer with the Nevada Small Business Development Center at the University of Nevada, Reno, population growth in the state has been fueled by job creation.

Despite losses in the construction sector, tourism continues to play a huge role in Nevada’s economy, and the state has continued to see gains in the hotel and gaming industry.

The Nevada Workforce Informer reports that 26 percent of Nevada’s workers were employed in the leisure and hospitality industry in 2007, followed by trade, transportation and utilities, at 18 percent.

In 2006, 82 percent of the state’s population growth occurred in Clark County, where the hotel and gaming industry dominate the Las Vegas labor force and economy, according to Hardcastle.

In the Reno/Tahoe area, the economy is a bit more diversified, with transportation, warehousing and utilities and back office/administration playing a large role in the local economy. The mining industry plays a role in the rural Nevada economy.

The continued migration of residents from other states has also had a snowball-like effect on the economy and labor force; as the population increases, so does the demand for teachers, health care providers, transportation services, and the like. This increase in job opportunities entices more people to move to the area, and the cycle continues – at least for the foreseeable future.

Nevada is currently experiencing a high rate of mortgage loan delinquencies, which may mean that growth could be headed for a slowdown as well, though only time will tell.

Other states rounding out the top five in terms of population growth are Utah, Idaho, and Georgia, in the third, fourth and fifth position, respectively.

On the other end of the scale, Rhode Island experienced the largest percentage decline in population, followed by Michigan, Ohio, Vermont and New York.