Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday he was pleasantly surprised by the most recent U.S. Census figures that showed the state population grew by about 20,000 more people than some had expected.

Scott said he was not expecting the good news found in the 2020 census numbers for the state, which were released on Monday. The Vermont population increased to just over 643,000, up about 2.8% from the 2010 figure.

“I wasn’t sure what it would be, pleasantly surprised, but I don’t know when that happened and whether we were just expecting worse,” Scott said.

In July 2019, the Census Bureau estimated Vermont’s population at just under 624,000.

Scott attributed the increase to a variety of strategies the state has undertaken over the last four years that were designed to attract new residents. Vermont has been facing a demographic challenge of an aging population, fewer school children and, as a result, a declining workforce.

Since Scott took office in 2017, the cornerstone of his administration has been to make the state more affordable, and by extension, more attractive to newcomers and Vermonters who might otherwise leave the state.

Among the quirky incentives Vermont has used to try to attract people to the state are payments to help newcomers meet their moving expenses.

Since the pandemic hit, real estate sales in Vermont have been hot, with many sales going to people who bought property in the state to escape the pandemic.

The state’s reputation for being healthy, especially during the pandemic, and safe could also have attracted people, Scott said.

In 2012, Vermont lost population for the first time since 1944, and over the last decade, there were a number of ominous signs for the Vermont population.

The aging, shrinking workforce poses a long-term threat to the state's economy because many businesses are unable to find enough workers to fill open positions, officials have said.

Last month, Scott wrote President Joe Biden to ask him to triple the number of refugees from across the world who would be resettled in Vermont as another way to bring new residents to the state.