LOS ANGELES - For the first time, California’s major population centers of the Bay Area and Los Angeles lost population in the same year, according to data released Friday.
California as a whole lost 173,000 people in the year ending July 1 that included 12 months of the pandemic.
It’s just the second time ever the state has reported an annual population loss. But it’s the first time all nine Bay Area counties and Los Angeles County lost population in the same annual count.
Los Angeles County is the nation’s most populous by a wide margin but the latest tally shows it lost about 67,500 people to fall just under 10 million. The Bay Area counties, which have a population of about 7.7 million, lost roughly 64,000.
For nearly all its existence California’s population growth seemed unbounded. It leapfrogged other Western territories when it became a state in 1850, propelled by the discovery of gold in Sierra Nevada foothills that attracted hundreds of thousands of settlers while hastening the decline of native populations.
That kicked off a period of intense growth that lasted more than a century as the state found prosperity in the years after World War II and again following the tech boom in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
But that growth has slowed significantly in recent years until, in the spring of this year, California lost a congressional seat for the first time in its history because it did not grow as quickly as other states in the past decade. The delegation now is 52 members, still most in the nation.
Critics have blamed California’s high cost of living. Taxes are high and the median sale price of a single-family home is nearly $800,000, putting homeownership out of reach for many while also driving up rental prices. A cottage industry has sprung up of helping people leave California for other states.
California releases population estimates twice per year. The first estimate in May covers the previous calendar year while the December estimate covers the previous fiscal year, which runs from July 1 to June 30. The latest numbers show a slightly slower rate of decline compared to the 2020 calendar year.