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The rise in Jasper County's His-panic population from 2000 to 2005 exceeded the increase for the entire county and accounted for 22 percent of the population increase in Beaufort County, according to U.S. Census estimates released Friday.'
The numbers indicate that Hispanic communities in the Lowcountry are thriving. The census' annual estimates are based on migration patterns and state records on births, deaths, education and health care, said Michael Macfarlane, a coordinator with the S.C. State Data Center.'
Annual census information is based on projections from the 2000 census and should be analyzed as a trend and not treated as actual population numbers, Macfarlane said, noting that the Hispanic count may not include some illegal aliens.'
Jasper County's population increased by 738 residents over the last five years, according to estimates, but the Hispanic population has grown by 946 people. The county has lost about 1.2 percent of its black population and 0.5 percent of the white population, the census report states.'
The numbers are surprising, said Ginnie Kozak, regional planner with the Lowcountry Council of Governments, which oversees regional programs for Jasper, Beaufort, Colleton and Hampton counties.'
"That will have some real implications for the school system and with health care," she said.'
County officials have recognized the increased Hispanic population and are developing multicultural programs to meet any emerging needs, said county administrator Andrew Fulghum.'
In Beaufort County, the population has increased by nearly 17,000 people, with Hispanics accounting for 3,700 of the new residents, or 22 percent of the growth. Non-Hispanic whites made up 69 percent of the growth, and non-Hispanic blacks accounted for 5 percent.'
Statewide, the Hispanic population increased by about 18 percent.'
Luis Bell, director of the Latin American Council on Hilton Head Island, said the numbers aren't surprising when the amount of construction in the area is considered. The council fields requests from 50 to 60 Hispanics a day for relocation guidance, English lessons and other assistance.'
"It's a very active economy," he said, "and the labor force moves where it's needed."