California's population shrinks for the first time

So much for the insistence that there's been no exodus from California. The data is in. And it shows that California did indeed lose residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in the first year-over-year population loss in recorded history.

State Department of Finance data released Friday show that California’s population declined by 182,083 people in 2020. The news comes on the heels of US Census tabulations that will result in California’s loss of a congressional seat — another historical first.

Critics of Gov. Gavin Newsom wasted no time assigning blame.

“The numbers don’t lie,” tweeted former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who is running for governor. “People are leaving our state because it’s not affordable to live here. One party rule has made it almost impossible to raise a family. It's time for change.”

State forecasters have a different take. They’re blaming a confluence of factors that are “unique to this period,” including 51,000 COVID deaths, pandemic travel restrictions, and Trump-era immigration policies.

“Going forward, we anticipate that those… factors that tipped us temporarily into negative territory are going to change over the next few months,” said Department of Finance spokesperson H.D. Palmer.

What that overlooks is the slowed growth that has been impacting the Golden State for years.

According to Friday’s data, San Francisco’s population declined by 1.6%. Los Angeles’ population declined by 1.3%. On the other hand, Merced, Manteca, Tracy, Banning, and San Jacinto all grew by more than 2%.

See a list of the ten fastest growing and shrinking cities of 30,000 or more at CalMatters.


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