By David Ariosto, CNN
New York — The U.S. population is expected to top out at close to 312.8 million people just around the time crowds gather to watch the ball drop in Manhattan's Times Square on New Year's Eve, according to new census data released Thursday.
The figure represents a 0.7% increase from last year, adding 2,250,129 people to the U.S. population since the start of 2011, and a 1.3% increase since Census Day, April 1, 2010.
Workers attach 288 new Waterford Crystal triangles on the 2012 Times Square New Year's Eve Ball. Photo: Getty Images, courtesy CNN.
The agency estimates that beginning in January, one American will be born every eight seconds and one will die every 12 seconds.
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U.S.-bound immigrants are also expected to add one person every 46 seconds.
That combination of births, deaths and migration is expected to add a single person to the U.S. population every 17 seconds, the Census Bureau said.
Meanwhile, millions are set to ring in the new year.
In New York, authorities are preparing for large crowds in Times Square, where Lady Gaga is expected to join Mayor Michael Bloomberg to push the button that drops the Waterford Crystal ball at 11:59 p.m. ET on New Year's Eve.
"And I'm so looking forward to performing on NYE+dropping the Ball with Mayor Bloomberg!" the pop star posted on Twitter. "What an honor as a New Yorker."
Past guests have included Muhammad Ali, Rudy Giuliani, Colin Powell and Bill and Hillary Clinton.
On Thursday, officials conducted New York's annual "airworthiness test" — a process in which confetti is tossed by handfuls above Times Square — in preparation for the annual city tradition of dumping one ton of confetti over revelers in the iconic square.
The Big Apple this year edged out Las Vegas for the first time in seven years as the top travel U.S. destination for those celebrating the new year, according to a December travel booking website poll.
Seven New York neighborhoods made the top 10 list, with two districts in Las Vegas and one in New Orleans making up the other three, according to the Priceline poll.
"It appears that New York City will be helped this year by a weather forecast that calls for warmer than usual temperatures over the holiday weekend," said company spokesman Brian Ek.