Continuing Population Decline a Warning for California

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In an ominous sign for California’s economic future, the state recorded its second straight year of population loss. In 2021, the state lost over 117,000 residents, a decline of 0.3%. 2020 produced an even greater population loss of nearly 350,000 residents, and was the first for California in recorded history. Net out-migration from the state has continued, and international immigration has remained muted during the pandemic. Thirty-four of the state’s 58 counties lost population during 2021. In the Bay Area, Napa (-1.0%), San Mateo (-0.9%), Marin (-0.9%), and San Francisco (-0.8%) counties experienced the largest percentage population losses. None of the nine Bay Area counties produced a population increase during 2021. The Bay Area’s population fell by 50,000 residents during 2021 to 7.6 million. The 0.6% decline in population in the Bay Area outpaced the state’s overall population loss, as the only counties to produce growth were inland.

The falling population in the state and region poses significant challenges to economic recovery. High housing costs, along with the state’s generally high cost of living, homelessness and crime were among the top reasons given by the 48% of Bay Area voters who said in the recent Bay Area Council Poll they are thinking of leaving the region in the next few years. Remote work opportunities have also allowed both households and companies to have more flexibility in where they locate.  The population trends of the last two years show that the benefits and opportunities that California and the Bay Area provide are beginning to be outweighed by the high costs to live and do business here.

That’s why the Bay Area Council is partnering with the Los Angeles County Business Federation (BizFed) and dozens of business, industry and other groups from the state to form the New California Coalition (NCC). The NCC, behind the leadership of Council CEO Jim Wunderman and BizFed CEO Tracy Hernandez, is working to mobilize more than 1 million common sense California voters and hundreds of thousands of business owners to urge leaders to enact workable solutions to California’s most pressing challenges and create a climate that attracts people, jobs and investment. To learn more about the New California Coalition, please contact Suzanne Robinson.

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