Southwestern Pennsylvania suffered population decline in the thousands, according to the 2017 list of county and metropolitan area population released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday.
The Pittsburgh metro area lost 8,169 residents between 2016 and 2017, or 0.3 percent of its 2016 population of 2,341,536. That makes Pittsburgh the biggest decline of any metro area in the country aside from Chicago, IL.
Allegheny County suffered a similar drop. It lost 4,505 residents between 2016 and 2017, or 0.4 percent of its 2016 population of 1,227,553. The loss makes Allegheny County the fifth-worst county in the nation for numeric population decline. In 2017, the only counties with higher population loss were St. Louis city, MO; Cuyahoga County, OH; Baltimore city, MD; and Cook County, IL.
Christopher Briem, regional economist at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Social and Urban Research, said that southwestern Pennsylvania has long faced population issues, although he recounts a period between 2007 and 2014 of small growth. "We were doing really well here for a number of years but historically we've always lost folks going back to almost World War II,” Briem explained.
Pittsburgh’s population trends older than other places, he said, and the area usually sees more deaths than births. Older generations usually don’t want to stay here, either, Briem notes, because southwestern Pennsylvania is seen as a cold—and urban—place to retire.
Briem said he believes that job growth could attract more people to southwestern Pennsylvania. "The economic migration of workers is a reflection of job growth, and for Pittsburgh it's really a question of employers competing for workers in a national market, so if there's job growth here, I think we'll see the folks come," he said.
Nearly 23 percent of metropolitan areas in the United States experienced population decreases between 2016 and 2017. Over half of all U.S. counties gained population in that time period, and 43.7 percent lost population.
In the U.S. Census Bureau’s report, the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas metropolitan area topped the list of the largest-growing regions in the country for the second year, largely due to international and domestic migration. The New York-Newark-Jersey area also remains the most populous region in the United States. Philadelphia comes in at eighth most populous.