Despite still being the least populated state in the nation, Wyoming saw a significant increase in its population in 2012 compared to a year ago.

Economists with the Wyoming Department of Administration and Information estimate the state’s 2012 population to be 576,412 people, up sharply from last year's estimated 567,356-person figure and the 563,626-person figure recorded in the 2010 Census.

Wenlin Liu, a senior economist with the state of Wyoming’s Economic Analysis Division, says the state’s estimated 1.6 percent population increase in 2012 outpaces most of the nation.

“The growth rate ranked the fourth-highest in the nation, only behind North Dakota, Washington, D.C., and Texas,” Liu said. “For Wyoming, the population increase is basically driven by increasing employment.”

Liu says, despite softened population growth during the later portion of 2012, he expects growth in Wyoming next year to be strong again, aided by a stronger economy both statewide and nationwide.

According to the division's report, Wyoming has grown an estimated 2.3 percent since the 2010 Census, which outpaces the national average of 1.7 percent. On average, northeastern and midwestern states grew by less than one percent in 2010, while southern and western states saw the sharpest population growth, averaging increases of 2.4 percent and 2.3 percent respectively.

Liu estimates the population of the United States has grown 0.7 percent since 2011.

You can read the entire report at the division’s website.