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Although the overall U.S. population grew by 6.39 percent between 2000 and 2006, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, certain areas of the nation actually declined in population during that period. Many of those areas also experienced negative economic factors and job losses.

NuWire analyzed Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and divisions of MSAs with populations of more than one million to determine the Top 5 Declining U.S. Markets. Each of these markets experienced negative job growth between 2000 and 2006.

Abandoned train station in Detroit Michigan
An abandoned train station in Detroit, Michigan
The statistics from the U.S. Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics are historical in nature and are not based on future projections. The markets considered in the analysis were limited to the MSAs and Metropolitan Divisions of MSAs included in the U.S. Census Bureau data.

One area—New Orleans—was omitted from the list, despite the fact that it had by far the greatest population decline of any U.S. market. We omitted New Orleans because that decline was clearly related to Hurricane Katrina (with a loss of nearly 300,000 people from 2005 to 2006) and may not be an accurate reflection of economic factors. In addition, we believe that because the major population decline has already happened, New Orleans has a greater potential for regrowth, as some of the people who moved away return. Areas that have declined because of economic factors are less likely to experience a returning population.

Below are NuWire's Top 5 Declining U.S. Markets, ranked in order of U.S. Census statistics on declining populations.

1. Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn Metropolitan Division

Population:

July 1, 2000: 2,059,247
July 1, 2006: 1,971,853
Percent change: -4.24 percent

Jobs:

2000: 913,500
2006: 805,800
Percent change: -11.79 percent

Analysis:

It is no surprise Detroit is on this list; losses in the manufacturing and automotive industries have been widely publicized. The Detroit-Warren-Livonia metropolitan area lost 26.6 percent of its manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2005, according to a Brookings Institution study. Job losses in the Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn division were particularly high compared to the rest of the nation. As foreign automakers gain steam and American companies struggle, the future outlook for the industry does not look bright.

However, it is important to note that the greater Detroit-Warren-Livonia MSA would not have made this list; it actually showed slightly positive population growth. Other areas within the greater MSA actually grew during this period, so the statistics may also reflect some population shifting from one area of the MSA to another.

Detroit has four four-year colleges and universities. Retaining young, educated people is a key factor in strengthening a city's economy, but the crucial population of 25 to 34-year-olds in the city of Detroit declined by 20.47 percent from 2000 to 2006, from 144,323 to 114,778, according to the U.S Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

 

Buffalo Niagara Falls New York
Despite its natural beauty, the Buffalo-Niagara Falls region is losing residents
2. Buffalo-Niagara Falls MSA

Population:

July 1, 2000: 1,169,013
July 1, 2006: 1,137,520
Percent change: -2.69 percent

Jobs:

2000: 559,100
2006: 545,800
Percent change: -2.38 percent

Analysis:

Buffalo ranks second on the list primarily because of manufacturing industry losses, although job losses were much less severe than those in the Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn division. The Buffalo-Niagara Falls metropolitan area lost 23.4 percent of its manufacturing jobs from 2000 to 2005, according to a Brookings Institution study. The population decline may also reflect a population shift from cold weather areas to the Sun Belt as retirees move south.

Buffalo has six four-year colleges and universities.

However, "The population of the Buffalo Niagara region is older on balance than its national counterparts," with nearly 20 percent of the population over age 60, compared to 15 percent for the state, according to a 2002 report by the University at Buffalo.

The key population of 25 to 34-year-olds in the city declined by 18.21 percent from 2000 to 2006, from 42,150 to 34,475, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

 

3. Pittsburgh MSA

Pittsburgh Pennsylvania in winter
Pittsburgh's population figures have seen brighter days
Population:

July 1, 2000: 2,429,361
July 1, 2006: 2,370,776
Percent change: -2.41 percent

Jobs:

2000: 1,147,000
2006: 1,137,400
Percent change: -0.84 percent

Analysis:

Pittsburgh also experienced manufacturing industry losses; the city lost 22.8 percent of its manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2006, according to the Brookings Institution. Older communities are "hollowing out," and the metro Pittsburgh area's migration patterns show continued net out-migration, according to the Brookings Institution.

"The Census Bureau's 2006 community survey showed that metropolitan Pittsburgh has a larger proportion of residents over 45, 65 and 85 than the rest of the country," according to ThePittsburghChannel.com. "Our region also shows a lower proportion of people 25 to 34, 18 to 24 and children under five."

Pittsburgh has nine four-year colleges and universities, according to a Brookings Institution study. In spite of this, Pittsburgh's population of 25 to 34 year olds declined by 29.02 percent from 2000 to 2006, from 48,860 to 34,679, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

An aging population, net out-migration and a suffering manufacturing industry are indicators that the area may continue to experience a population decline unless they are able to turn the job market around.

 

4. San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City Metropolitan Division

San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge in fog
San Francisco's future population growth remains cloudy
Population:

July 1, 2000: 1,733,239
July 1, 2006: 1,698,282
Percent change: -2.02 percent

Jobs:

2000: 1,082,100
2006: 961,100
Percent change: -11.18 percent

Analysis:

It is somewhat surprising to see the San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City division on this list, but it is important to realize that the greater MSA would not make this list; Oakland and other parts of the Bay Area are experiencing growth, while the San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City division is not. Job losses in the division were particularly high. 

The dot-com bust likely played a major role in San Francisco's high job loss rate; jobs declined by 2.61 percent from 2000 to 2001, by 6.34 percent from 2001 to 2002 and by 3.75 percent from 2002 to 2003. After that, the job losses slowed and have since begun a gradual period of growth, with job gains of 2.01 percent from 2005 to 2006.

San Francisco experienced its greatest population declines from 2001 to 2004, and has actually experienced positive population growth from 2004 to 2006. This may demonstrate that the market is recovering after the dot-com bust, but high real estate prices and cost of living may limit population growth.

The population of 25 to 34 year olds in the city dropped by 28.26 percent from 2000 to 2006, from 180,418 to 129,430, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey. San Francisco County's population of 25 to 29 year olds dropped by 43.5 percent from 2000 to 2006, and its population of 30 to 34 year olds dropped by 12.8 percent during that period, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In addition, San Francisco is among five U.S. metropolitan areas that are likely to lose between 3.1 and 4.3 percent of their jobs to service offshoring between 2004 and 2015, according to a Brookings Institution February 2007 study. Employment of computer programmers, data entry keyers and software engineers is projected to fall by at least 17 percent between 2004 and 2015 in San Francisco, according to the study.

 

Factory in Cleveland Ohio
Cleveland has suffered from many losses in the manufacturing industry
5. Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor MSA

Population:
July 1, 2000: 2,148,010
July 1, 2006: 2,114,155
Percent change: -1.59 percent

Jobs:
2000: 1,136,000
2006: 1,076,100
Percent change: -5.27 percent

Analysis:

Like Detroit and Buffalo, Cleveland suffered from manufacturing industry losses. The Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor metropolitan area lost 24.0 percent of its manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2005, according to a Brookings Institution study.

Cleveland has had a declining population since 1997, its overall employment market is weak and its population is older than that of Ohio and the U.S., according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Cleveland's median age was 36.9 in 2006, up from 33.0 in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

Cleveland has eight four-year colleges and universities, according to a Brookings Institution study. However, the city's population of 25 to 34 year olds dropped by 31.72 percent from 2000 to 2006, from 71,847 to 49,057, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

"Cleveland resembles nearby metropolitan areas in the Northeast—Buffalo, Rochester, and Pittsburgh—more than it resembles those in Ohio," according to the Brookings Institution. It has experienced slow population growth, rapid decentralization, and "reductions in intensity and even abandonment of many industrial facilities that cannot be economically converted to other uses," according to the Brookings Institution.

* All population statistics are from the U.S. Census Bureau
* All job growth statistics are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

For a full listing of the top 50 declining markets, regardless of population size, see NuWire's Population Growth Table from 2000-2006.