U.S. annual population growth recently hit its lowest level in 80 years. Even with the recent slowdown, the U.S. population has been growing steadily for years. There are nearly 18.5 million more people living in the United States today than there were in 2010 — a 6.0% increase.
Despite the long-term population growth on a national level, there are areas across the country that are home to fewer people now than in 2010. Even the states with the fastest growing populations include counties experiencing long-term population decline. Here is a list of the fastest growing (and shrinking) states.
Reviewing population change figures from the Census Bureau from April 2010 through July 2018, 24/7 Wall St. identified the fastest shrinking county in each state. County equivalents like parishes and boroughs were also considered. In four states — Delaware, Hawaii, South Dakota, and Washington — no county’s population has declined.
Natural growth — births minus deaths — is the largest source of population growth for the United States as a whole. Immigration from other countries accounts for the rest of the growth. In the fastest shrinking county in each state, however, most of the population decline is due to people moving away at a much faster rate than arriving.
In a written exchange with 24/7 Wall St., William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution, pointed to some of the factors that could explain the population decline in many of these counties. “They have fewer economic prospects than other parts of the state and, therefore, are less likely to attract migrants from elsewhere in the state, much less those from other states or immigrants from abroad,” Frey said.
Indeed, economic opportunity is often relatively scarce in the counties on this list. The unemployment rate in the vast majority of these counties is higher than it is statewide. In some counties on this list, the unemployment rate is more than double the national annual unemployment rate of 3.9%. Here is a list of the 50 U.S. counties with the highest unemployment.
The counties on this list also tend to be home to older populations living in rural areas.