The great San Francisco exodus of 2020 was, as observed by many of us, followed by a slow returning of humans in mid-2021 and 2022. And now, some official numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, albeit estimates, suggest that the city's population about leveled off by last summer.
The Census Bureau has put out its new American Community Survey data for the period from July 1, 2021 to July 1, 2022, and it found that the population was relatively similar year to year, with a net loss of just 2,800 people, or 0.4%. That's compared to the estimated 55,000 people who departed the city between July 2020 and July 2021, which was a one-year population decline of 6.3%.
As of July 2022, SF's population was estimated at 808,437, which is still the lowest it's been since 2010.
Other counties in the Bay Area saw larger population declines last year, including San Mateo County (1.3%), Napa County (1.4%), and Marin County (1.2%). Some of that may be a reflection of people moving around the Bay Area and returning to the city after a pandemic break.
As the Census Bureau notes, "During the height of the pandemic, many small counties experienced higher levels of domestic (in-)migration, while many large counties saw lower levels of domestic migration. This pattern has reversed between 2021 and 2022, where many of the small counties that experienced increases in domestic migration saw that pattern slow down."
By comparison with San Francisco New York City saw a loss of 98,505 in 2021, which was followed by a gain of over 17,000 people in 2022. Meanwhile Los Angeles continues to see its population drop, with the largest single-county decline in 2022 of 90,704 people.
As we learned earlier this year, the Bay Area's overall population decline between April 2020 and July 2022 is estimated around 177,000.
The South and Southwest continue to see some of the most population growth in the country, with Texas now home to 10 of the fastest-growing counties, and Florida, Arizona, and Georgia all seeing significant gains as well.
The Census Bureau notes that the national rate of "natural decrease" — where you see more deaths than births — "remains historically high."
"Natural decrease counties are found nationwide but are especially prevalent in some states," Patricia Ramos of the the Census Bureau's Public Information Office writes in a statement. "While Maine was the only state where all counties experienced natural decrease, West Virginia also had a high frequency of natural decrease – with deaths outnumbering births in 54 of 55 of its counties. Seven of the 10 counties with the highest amount of natural decrease were in Florida, with Pinellas County topping the list with -6,468."
The only thing counterbalancing that "natural decrease" is immigration, or what the Census refers to "international migration." And that accounts for some portion of the population increases seen in Texas and Florida.
Miami-Dade County in Florida saw the largest number of international newcomers of any county in 2022, with 39,170. Harris County, Texas (the home of Houston) saw a similar number net international migration number of 37,268.
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