Goodbye NYC; Estimates show losses in major cities, gains in Sunbelt

Ko Im always thought she would live in New York forever. She knew every corner of Manhattan and had worked hard to build a community of friends. Living in a small apartment, she found her attitude changed when the pandemic began. After her brother accepted a job in Seattle in the summer of 2020, she decided to move there as well.

“It was fine until it wasn’t,” said Im, 36. “The pandemic really changed my attitude about how I wanted to live or how I needed to live.”

Meanwhile, eight of the ten largest cities in the US lost residents the first year of the pandemic, with New York, Los Angeles and Chicago at the top. Between July 2020 and July 2021, New York lost more than 305,000 people, while Chicago and Los Angeles shrank by 45,000 and 40,000 people, respectively.

Although San Francisco is not among the top 10 largest cities, nearly 55,000 residents, or 6.3% of its population, left the city in 2020, the highest percentage of any US city.


Among the top 10 largest U.S. cities, only San Antonio and Phoenix have added new residents, but they each added about 13,000 people, or less than 1% of their population, according to 2021 population estimates.

Justin Jordan’s move to Phoenix a year ago was motivated by a job offer that made him more money than the one in Moundsville, West Virginia, where he had lived. He had to adjust to 110 degree Fahrenheit (43.3 degree Celsius) temperatures and unwieldy traffic.

“I love the weather, the atmosphere and all the things there are to do,” said Jordan, 33, a senior operations manager at a business services company.

Austin and Fort Wort in Texas; Jacksonville, Florida; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Columbus, Ohio also saw modest population increases.

In March, the Census Bureau published estimates for metro areas and counties shows changes from mid-2020 to mid-2021. Estimates released on Thursday provide a more accurate perspective. For example the March dates showed Metro Dallas had the largest population increase of any metro area in the US, with more than 97,000 residents, but Thursday’s estimates show the city of Dallas has lost nearly 15,000 residents. The growth took place in Dallas suburbs like Frisco, McKinney and Plano.


The reasons for population changes vary from city to city and are determined by housing costs, jobs, births and deaths. The pandemic and lockdown that followed in spring 2020 made life in a crowded city less appealing for a time, and those who could leave – for example workers who could do their jobs remotely – sometimes did.

Brooking Institution demographer William Frey said he believes the population decline in most of the largest US cities from 2020 to 2021 will be “short-lived and pandemic-related.”

When it came to growth rates, the fastest-growing cities of at least 50,000 people were in the suburbs of the booming Sunbelt metropolitan areas. These included Georgetown and Leander outside of Austin; the town of Queen Creek and the towns of Buckeye, Casa Grande and Maricopa outside of Phoenix; the town of New Braunfels, outside of San Antonio; and Fort Myers, Fla. They had growth rates between 6.1% and 10.5%.


As Metro Austin has grown by leaps and bounds, Georgetown, which is more than 25 miles north of the Texas capital, has also grown by leaps and bounds, said Keith Hutchinson, the city’s communications manager. The city grew 10.5% last year, the fastest in the country, and now has 75,000 residents.

“It’s not really a surprise,” Hutchinson said. “People move here for jobs”

The estimates also showed population declines of 3% to 3.5% in New Jersey cities outside of New York, such as Union City, Hoboken and Bayonne. There were similar declines outside of San Francisco in Daly City, Redwood City and San Mateo, and Cupertino in Silicon Valley.

Lake Charles, Louisiana, which was devastated by Hurricane Laura in 2020, lost nearly 5% of its residents, the second-highest rate in the US after San Francisco.

Though the Category 4 storm was the driver there, the pandemic created opportunities to move elsewhere. Andrew Mazur, 31, had wanted to leave Philadelphia for South Florida, where he grew up, for some time, and in November 2020 he was given the opportunity to work remotely at his job at a large professional services firm. He joined nearly 25,000 residents who left Philadelphia between 2020 and 2021.


Although he now needs a car to get around, Mazur loves to play golf and go to the beach every weekend. He recently moved out of his parents’ house and into his own apartment in Fort Lauderdale. He made the move official three weeks ago by obtaining a Florida driver’s license.

“I’m not going back. It was great,” Mazur said. “Philly, New York, Chicago – tons of people move here from there.”


Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP

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https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/05/26/goodbye-nyc-estimates-show-big-city-losses-sunbelt-gains/ Goodbye NYC; Estimates show losses in major cities, gains in Sunbelt

Sarah Y. Kim

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