New York ranked No. 1 in the nation in 2019 for losing population, according to a recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau.
New York’s population decreased by 76,790, followed by Illinois with 51,250, West Virginia with 12,144, Louisiana with 10,896, Connecticut with 6,233, Mississippi with 4,871, Hawaii with 4,721, New Jersey with 3,835, Alaska with 3,594 and Vermont with 369. New York also ranked second in the country, after California, for losing population due to net domestic migration.
“It’s not a shock to anybody,” Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said Friday. “This has been going on for quite some time.”
Columbia County Economic Development President F. Michael Tucker agreed.
“The data reflects an ongoing trend, which is predicted to continue here in New York,” Tucker said.
Pattern for Progress, “Out of Alignment,” a year-long study funded by Central Hudson and released in October, looked at how the Hudson Valley recovered since the Great Recession that began in December 2007, and what is on the horizon.
From 2007-2017, Columbia County saw a decrease of 80 births and Greene County had a drop of 72, according to Central Hudson’s study.
In Columbia and Greene more than 40% of the population will be age 55 and older by 2030. By 2030 almost 25% of the Columbia County population will be age 70 or above, according to Central Hudson’s study.
Data from the Census Bureau in 2018 ranked Columbia County as 14th and Greene County as 31st in terms of population in the state. Greene County’s population had declined by 1.59%, or 785 residents, from 2010-2018; and Columbia County by 3.1%, or 1,959 residents.
There are a variety of potential causes for the migration numbers, Linger said.
“Some people don’t like the weather, some people don’t like to pay an income tax, others don’t like the property taxes,” Linger said. “When you put it all together, [New York] does not compete well with other states. I don’t think the policies the state is coming out with is helping with that.”
New York does not have the most favorable climate for businesses, Linger said.
“New York state overregulates a lot of things,” he said. “It’s hard for businesses to come in and hard for businesses to compete here.”
There are also natural population dynamics to consider, Greene County Economic Development and Planning Director Karl Heck said.
“People are living longer and having fewer kids,” Heck said.
Older residents occupy a larger population than they used to, Heck said.
“Retirees move to go somewhere warmer,” he said. “That trend is not going to change.”
Another factor is the disparity between regions, Tucker said.
“The costs of living where there are employment opportunities are too expensive,” Tucker said. “Here, the costs are more manageable but we lack jobs.”
The most important thing is what communities take away from these projections, Tucker said.
“The bigger issue is how to respond to the realities of the population shift,” he said.
Columbia County Economic Development aids with workforce development, education, attracting and growing small businesses, and upgrading infrastructure within the county, Tucker said.
“We have the foundations on which to grow economic vitality in Columbia County,” he said.
In Greene County, a heavy emphasis is placed on tourism.
“We live in a beautiful part of the country,” Linger said. “People love to come here with the mountains, with the rivers and four distinct seasons.”
Many visitors end up falling in love with the area and purchasing property, Linger said.
The county strives to reach audiences through a variety of programs such as Buy in Greene, Heck said.
There are more than 9,000 second homeowners in the county.
“We did a study on them a couple years ago to try and see what would turn them into full-time residents,” he said.
Many people who move into Greene County are people who wanted to move out of the metropolitan New York area.
A declining population can have major impacts on a community.
“It affects the labor force,” Heck said. “A lot of companies are having a hard time finding labor. It’s becoming a nationwide issue.”
The baby boomer population is reaching retirement age.
The workforce issue has pros and cons, Linger said.
“We wind up almost begging people to work,” he said.
On the upside, the employment rate is high.
“This creates a lot of competition for workers,” Linger said. “A benefit is that wages are going to increase.”
Although it is difficult for the county to grow when at maximum employment rate, there is a flip side, Linger said.
“It is a good problem to have rather than high unemployment,” he said.
Some effects of low populations may be shared government services and consolidation of school districts, Tucker said.
“Businesses and government will need to adapt to how services are delivered,” he said. Heck expects that population decline will become a bigger issue in the new decade.
The nation’s growth during the 2010s may be the lowest it has been since the Civil War, he said.
“While natural increase is the biggest contributor to the U.S. population increase, it has been slowing over the last five years,” said Dr. Sandra Johnson, a demographer/statistician in the Population Division of the Census Bureau. “Natural increase, or when the number of births is greater than the number of deaths, dropped below 1 million in 2019 for the first time in decades.”
Forty-two states and the District of Columbia had lower birth rates in 2019 than in 2018, according to the report.