Raleigh and its suburb Cary combined for the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the U.S. last year, the Census Bureau reported last week.

Raleigh-Cary grew 4.3%, adding 44,804 residents between July 2007 and July 2008 for a total population of 1.1 million. Raleigh-Cary’s rapid growth dwarfed the second-place region, Austin-Round Rock, Tex., which grew 3.8%.

Raleigh, the state capital, and Cary are rated triple-A by Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service.

Triple-A Wake County, which includes Raleigh and most of Cary, was among the top-10 counties in population growth last year, adding 36,381 residents. Eleven North Carolina counties were among the 100 fastest-growing counties last year.

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