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California, most populous U.S. state, gains 356,000 residents

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California gained 356,000 people in 2013, many attracted to the San Francisco Bay area and its prospering technology industry, a state demographer said on Thursday.

California, the most populous U.S. state since 1963, ended the year with 38.3 million residents following its largest population increase since 2003.

The state's recovering economy has drawn immigrants from abroad and Americans from other states, said Bill Schooling, chief of demographic research for the state Department of Finance. The biggest increases were in large urban centers, led by the San Francisco Bay area, while some rural counties home to older residents saw population decreases.

"People always want to live in California, and so if there are opportunities, California pulls people in," Schooling said.

San Francisco and the nearby Silicon Valley have seen an economic upswing in recent years tied to the success of technology companies such as Apple Inc and Google Inc and numerous smaller firms that make their home in the region.

High-profile stock offerings for the likes of Facebook Inc and Twitter Inc have spurred an influx of talent and newly minted wealth.

Three of California's five fastest-growing counties are in the San Francisco Bay area, according to a Department of Finance population report released on Wednesday. Silicon Valley hub San Jose's population rose by 1.7 percent in 2013, crossing 1 million residents for the first time.

"The (Bay area) economy in several sectors, but certainly driven largely by the technology area, is booming and that's really created a lot of demographic positives," Schooling said.

California, which overall saw a 0.9 percent population increase in 2013, is not the fastest-growing U.S. state.

That is North Dakota, which is in the midst of an oil boom and saw its population rise by 3.1 percent in the 12 months leading up to July 1, 2013, according to figures previously released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Texas, California's arch-rival in a fight for jobs, had the largest increase among the states in number of residents during that period, gaining 387,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Texas scored a coup this week when Toyota Motor Corp said it would move its U.S. sales headquarters to suburban Dallas from Torrance in Southern California.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Mohammad Zargham)

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