Special Report

America's Fastest Shrinking Cities

Source: Daniel Schwen / Wikimedia Commons

5. Danville, IL
> Population change (2011-2016): -4.02%
> Total population: 78,111
> Per capita income: $35,630
> Unemployment rate: 7.6%

The Danville population decreased by 4.0% in the last five years, one of the fastest population declines of any metro area. The city’s population fell from 81,380 in 2011 to 78,111 in 2016. Some outbound residents may have left Danville in search of a job. An estimated 7.6% of the city’s workforce is currently unemployed, one of the highest unemployment rates of any metro area. The typical household earns just $45,098 a year, far less than the $55,775 national median household income.

Source: Thinkstock

4. Sierra Vista-Douglas, AZ
> Population change (2011-2016): -5.41%
> Total population: 125,770
> Per capita income: $38,133
> Unemployment rate: 5.8%

The relatively high birthrate and influx of foreign immigrants in Sierra Vista-Douglas over the last five years have not been enough to offset the number of people moving out of the metro area. The area’s population fell by 5.4% in that time, a steeper drop that in all but three other U.S. metro areas. Economic output has declined in conjunction with the metro area’s population. The area’s GDP contracted by an average of 4.0% annually between 2011 and 2015, the second steepest drop of any U.S. metro area.

Source: Thinkstock

3. Johnstown, PA
> Population change (2011-2016): -5.50%
> Total population: 134,732
> Per capita income: $38,512
> Unemployment rate: 6.1%

Most metro areas with declining populations also have declining economies. Few had as rapidly shrinking GDPs as Johnstown, however. The metro area’s economic output contracted by an average of 2.4% annually between 2011 and 2015.

As is common in areas with significant population declines, property values are low in Johnstown. The typical area home is worth only $89,100, one of the lowest median home values of all U.S. metro areas.

Source: Thinkstock

2. Pine Bluff, AR
> Population change (2011-2016): -7.13%
> Total population: 91,962
> Per capita income: $31,377
> Unemployment rate: 4.8%

In response to rising unemployment, housing challenges, and other factors, the population of rural, non-metropolitan areas has declined across the United States for decades. A similar trend may help explain population decline in Pine Bluff, which among metropolitan areas is relatively small and sparsely populated. Nearly half of all Pine Bluff households live in rural areas, one of the largest shares nationwide.

Like many rural cities with shrinking populations, Pine Bluff residents are not especially wealthy. As the population fell by a net 7,000 residents between 2011 and 2016, the median household income in Pine Bluff remained roughly unchanged. At $36,538, it is the fourth lowest median household income of any metro area today.

Source: Thinkstock

1. Farmington, NM
> Population change (2011-2016): -10.09%
> Total population: 115,079
> Per capita income: $37,777
> Unemployment rate: 9.2%

Despite a net increase of several hundred residents between July 2011 and July 2012, Farmington’s population has declined steeply every year since. Due almost entirely to people moving to other parts of the United States, there are now nearly 13,000 fewer people living in the metro area than there were five years ago. The 10% population drop was the largest of any U.S. metro area.

Poor economic conditions may explain the exodus. Some 9.2% of the metro area’s labor force is out of a job, compared to only 4.7% of the total U.S. labor force. At the same time in 2011, only 8.4% of the area’s labor force was unemployed, making Farmington the only metro area where unemployment actually increased over that period.

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