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More Coloradans moving out as population growth brings traffic complications, higher home prices

Colorado’s red-hot population growth rate is cooling, and while current residents may celebrate, those who are leaving in increasing numbers say they were driven away by rising housing prices, jobs that don’t pay enough and traffic jams.

The state in 2016 saw its first drop this decade in the number of people arriving from other states, while those leaving Colorado hit a record high, resulting in the lowest net-migration number — 30,000 total new residents — in seven years.

New annual figures from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey show that 193,000 Coloradans moved away last year, 10,000 more than in 2015, while 223,000 moved here, down about 4,000 from the year before but still well above recent years.

“We are seeing that there has been an increase in outs — the highest on record,” said state demographer Elizabeth Garner.

Nicole Parkin moved to Colorado from New Jersey in 2009, lured by a combination of “beauty and affordability.” On Friday night, she planned to start the long drive back, her Toyota Corolla loaded with personal belongings, a pet dog and a deep sense of resignation.

“The growth of our beautiful city has brought nothing but increased traffic, angry entitled transplants who have no respect, and a cost of living that is through the roof,” the former Aurora resident said.

The Census survey numbers don’t include people who have moved to the state from abroad. And because the counts are based on surveys, the margin of errors can be large, especially when looking at movements to and from individual states.

Tax-return counts from the Internal Revenue Service show that Colorado experienced a big jump in both households arriving and leaving from other states last year versus 2015. But on the whole, net migration among people who file tax returns isn’t declining.

The Denver Post asked readers who recently left the state to share their stories. Some common themes emerged, including a desire to take advantage of better job opportunities and lower living costs elsewhere and the draw of a less stressful lifestyle.

Despite having a paralegal degree and what she describes as a strong résumé, Parkin, 31, said she couldn’t find a job paying more than $15 an hour, a wage that fell far short of covering Denver’s ever-escalating living costs.

Her first apartment in 2009, a one-bedroom unit on the University of Denver campus, rented for $525 a month. As rents rose, she gave up on trying to live in central Denver. This year, she was paying $800 to rent a bedroom in an Aurora condominium near Denver International Airport.

But that trade-off resulted in more time stuck in traffic on roads that she views as poorly maintained. Parkin lost a rear strut on her car to a gaping pothole.

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