For the first time, Iowa’s population has crossed the three million mark.

The latest estimates from the Census Bureau indicate Iowa’s population has grown 2.6 percent since 2000. Half of those new residents came to Iowa from another country; the rest of those new residents came from other U.S. states.

"It really is a red letter day if Iowa has crossed over to the three million-plus mark in population," Iowa Department of Economic Development director Mike Tramontina says.

Iowa businesses have been finding it increasingly difficult to fill jobs and Tramontina says gaining population helps fill those gaps. "We’ve got great jobs in our state and actually our workforce growth is not growing as fast as the number of jobs we’ve been creating and so we need to continue to get people who were born and raised here to stay here," Tramontina says. "We need to continue our efforts to get people to move here."

The next U.S. Census in 2010 will help determine federal appropriation levels for a variety of programs. Despite the population gains the Census Bureau estimates in Iowa this decade, it’s likely Iowa will lose a congressional seat — going from five districts to four — because other states have made greater gains. "And we’d hate to see that happen," Tramontina says, "and so population growth is a real good thing for Iowa today."

Iowa is one of eight states likely to lose a congressional seat, as other states have made more sizable population gains. Those states are Arizona, Florida, George, Nevada and Utah, all of which are expected to gain a congressional seat in 2012 reapportionment; and the state of Texas, which is expected to gain three seats.

The Census data calculates Iowa’s population trends from the year 2000 through July 1st of this year. From the beginning of the century to mid-2008, there were over 300,000 births in Iowa and just over 226,000 deaths, so the birth rate outpaced the death rate.