New population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau today show that the largest substantial growth, both locally and nationally, was among Asians.
New Jersey and most local counties also saw large numbers of residents move elsewhere in the country or state - in some cases, more than the number of foreign immigrants coming in.
The new numbers are American Community Survey estimates for July 1, 2012, and are being compared to estimates from July 1, 2010 and July 1, 2011.
The number of residents describing themselves as Asian or part Asian grew by 6 percent nationally from 2010 to 2012 - from 17.8 million to 18.9 million - and by 3 percent from 2011 to 2012.
New Jersey saw the same levels of growth in the Asian population, rising by 6 percent from 2010 to 2012 - from about 810,000 to about 858,000 - and 3 percent from 2011 to 2012.
Typically, said Richard Perniciaro, director of the Center for Regional and Business Research at Atlantic Cape Community College, New Jersey and the local area are "immigrant-receiving areas."
"We're close to the shore, where people come in, and another reason is that they have a lot of relatives here," Perniciaro said.
The hospitality industry also makes it easier to find entry-level jobs, while institutions such as the Federal Aviation Administration's William J. Hughes Technical Center provide opportunities for those here on visas for jobs in fields such as engineering and technology.
"Though my sense is that compared overall to the growth in the Asian population, (skilled jobs) are a smaller number," he said. "Anything else high-tech hasn't really grown."
Locally, the Asian population grew from 2010 to 2012 by 4 percent in Atlantic County, 8 percent in Cape May County, 5 percent in Cumberland County and 6 percent in Ocean County - the largest growth of any of the three largest racial categories, white, black and Asian, in those counties.
In Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties, by comparison, the white and black populations were mostly stagnant. The only two-year increase above 1 percent was in the black population in Cumberland County. The one-year growth for whites from 2011 to 2012 was near zero percent in all four counties.
More than 60 percent of the growth in the Asian population came from international migration, the Census Bureau stated. By comparison, the Hispanic population - Hispanics, considered an ethnicity, can be of any race - grew by just more than 2 percent nationally and was fueled mostly by births, not immigration.
Luisa Wong, of Galloway Township, president of the Philippine Asian American Association of South Jersey, said she has seen "a big increase, but gradual."
"I'm hoping our ethnicity and culture are solid at this point," Wong said. "We're paving the way for others to come in, but at the same time we don't want to lose who we are and our character. And that's where cultural organizations come in. We're proud of where we are right now in American society, and at the same time we want to be proud of where we came from."
Riaz Rajput, of Egg Harbor Township, is one of the founders of the United Asian American Organization of New Jersey, made up of local Pakistanis, Indians and Bangladeshis. He said the growth of the Asian population "will bring change and a new energy to the city, and locally."
The group, still in its planning stages, is working on a directory of businesses and services available within the Asian community.
Rajput said he also wants to see what happens with the current immigration bill being debated by Congress, which would increase the number of visas available for skilled positions.
"It would bring a lot of skilled workers, and that is very much needed to boost the economy," he said.
In terms of overall population growth, New Jersey and Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties all saw losses of residents leaving for elsewhere in the country or in the state, with Atlantic County seeing a drop of more than 4,000 residents to "domestic" emigration.
Only foreign immigration of almost 4,000 residents and about 2,000 more births than deaths kept Atlantic County's total population loss from 2010 to 2012 at about 1,000 people. Cumberland and Cape May counties saw similar trends, with more people leaving domestically than immigrating from foreign countries.
Ocean County, meanwhile, saw growth in both immigration categories, domestic and foreign.
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