California’s population shrunk in 2023 for the third straight year, but exodus slowed

The California exodus isn’t over yet.

For the third consecutive year, the Golden State’s population continued to shrink in 2023, even as 42 other states grew this past year, many reversing population declines during the COVID pandemic, according to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau released Tuesday.

Overall nationally, the U.S. gained more than 1.6 million people this past year, growing by 0.5% to 334,914,895, the Census reported, with more states seeing population growth in 2023 than in any year since the start of the pandemic. While national population growth remains historically low, the U.S. saw a slight uptick from the 0.4% increase in 2022 and the 0.2% increase in 2021.

The Census said population trends are returning to pre-pandemic growth rates as international immigration returns and death rates continue to drop.

“Although births declined, this was tempered by the near 9% decrease in deaths,” said Kristie Wilder, a demographer in the Population Division at the Census Bureau. “Ultimately, fewer deaths paired with rebounding immigration resulted in the nation experiencing its largest population gain since 2018.”

So what’s going on in the Golden State?

California’s population shrank by 75,423 residents in 2023 to 38,965,193, a drop of 0.2% from 2022. But the so-called California exodus is slowing. The drop is less than the 0.3% annual decline in 2022 from 2021, and the 0.9% yearly drop in 2021 from 2020, when 39,503,200 called the Golden State home.

But while California’s population shedding is slowing, it remains among few states still losing residents. Others were New York, Louisiana, Hawaii, Illinois, West Virginia, Oregon and Pennsylvania. And California’s population decline since 2020 remains the fourth largest in the U.S., behind New York, Illinois and Louisiana.

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