Special Report

America's Fastest Shrinking Cities

Samuel Stebbins

Source: Daniel Schwen / Wikimedia Commons

5. Danville, IL
> 2010-2018 pop. change: -5.9% (-4,833)
> 2018 unemployment: 6.3%
> 2010-2018 employment change: -2.8% (-788)
> Median household income: $44,930

Over 5,000 more people moved out of Danville, Illinois, than moved in between 2010 and 2018, contributing to a 5.9% overall population decline over that period. Danville’s population loss is a microcosm of a broader problem across the state. Over half a million more people left Illinois than arrived in the state since 2010. The state has reported population declines each of the last five years. Many argue that the state’s high taxes and weak job market are to blame. In Danville, the unemployment rate stands at 6.3%, and across Illinois it is 4.3%, each rate above the 3.9% national unemployment rate.

Source: Tim Kiser (w:User:Malepheasant) / Wikimedia Commons

4. Beckley, WV
> 2010-2018 pop. change: -6.1% (-7,677)
> 2018 unemployment: 6.4%
> 2010-2018 employment change: +32.6% (+10,260)
> Median household income: $41,141

Beckley, West Virginia, lost a net of 7,677 residents over the last eight years, or 6.1% of its population. The decline was precipitated primarily by outward migration, but the area also had more deaths than births.

Americans often relocate for job or career opportunities, and in Beckley, employment options appear relatively limited. Some 6.4% of the metro area’s labor force is unemployed, far more than the 3.9% national unemployment rate. In addition, the available jobs in the area are not especially high paying. The typical household in Beckley earns just $41,141 a year, well below the $57,652 national median.

 

Source: 6381380 / Getty Images

3. Charleston, WV
> 2010-2018 pop. change: -7.0% (-15,854)
> 2018 unemployment: 6.0%
> 2010-2018 employment change: -23.3% (-32,113)
> Median household income: $45,155

Charleston lost a net of 15,858 residents between 2010 and 2018, or 7.0% of its total population, the largest decline of any metro area in West Virginia and the third largest nationwide. Like many metro areas on this list, Charleston suffers from high crime and high jobless rate. There were 570 violent crimes for every 100,000 people in the metro area in 2017, compared to 383 per 100,000 nationwide. Additionally, Charleston’s unemployment rate of 6.0% is well above the 3.9% national unemployment rate.

Source: davidwilson1949 / Flickr

2. Johnstown, PA
> 2010-2018 pop. change: -8.2% (-11,720)
> 2018 unemployment: 5.1%
> 2010-2018 employment change: -9.0% (-5,090)
> Median household income: $44,943

There were 4,000 more deaths than births in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, between 2010 and 2018, and about 8,000 more people left than moved in. The resulting 8.2% population decline was the second largest of any U.S. metro area over that period.

One of the most common reasons Americans decide to move is for jobs and career opportunities, and those are relatively scarce in the metro area. As of 2018, there were 5,090 fewer jobs in Johnstown than there were in 2010. The area’s unemployment of 5.1% is well above the 3.9% national unemployment rate.

Source: pasa / Flickr

1. Pine Bluff, AR
> 2010-2018 pop. change: -10.6% (-10,592)
> 2018 unemployment: 6.0%
> 2010-2018 employment change: -12.3% (-4,414)
> Median household income: $38,547

Due entirely to outbound migration, Pine Bluff lost a net of 10,592 residents between 2010 and 2018. The 10.6% population drop was the largest of any U.S. metro area over that period.

Crime can detract considerably from quality of life in any city, and Pine Bluffs’s violent crime rate of 1,007 incidents per 100,000 people is well above the national violent crime rate of 383 incidents per 100,000. Another factor detracting from quality of life in the city is its high jobless rate — 6.0% of metro area workers were unemployed in 2018, well above the 3.9% national unemployment rate.