WATERTOWN — While a majority of upstate New York counties have lost residents in recent years, Jefferson County is among a small handful that saw population increases between 2010 and 2015, according to a recent study from the Empire Center for Public Policy.
The report, released March 24, uses U.S. Census Bureau data to assess net population changes in each of New York’s 62 counties. It lists Jefferson County as one of just nine counties north of the mid-Hudson Valley that have gained population.
Despite having the highest migration rate in the state — 5,617 residents have moved away since 2010 — Jefferson County’s top-ranked birth rate managed to increase the county’s population by 1,403 over five years.
“It’s hard to imagine that that’s not chiefly the result of having Fort Drum in Watertown,” said Ken D. Girardin, a policy analyst at the Empire Center. “Five years is a lot of time for people to move to Fort Drum and away from Fort Drum to other places in the state or country.”
Jefferson County Senior Planner Michael J. Bourcy agreed. He said Fort Drum brings younger families to Jefferson County, which often means more children are born here.
“Jefferson County’s median age is something like 32.6, compared to the state average of about 38,” he said. “We have a younger population and they are the ones who are going to be having families.”
Between 2010 and 2015, Lewis County lost 117 people and St. Lawrence County lost 934 residents.
In total, the 50 counties north of the mid-Hudson Valley lost 31,740 people, their combined population dropping from 6,339,313 in 2010 to 6,307,573 in 2015.
“The rate at which people are moving to or away from an area is the best indicator of a region’s economic health,” Mr. Girardin said. “The fact that you had more people leaving upstate New York than coming there is really concerning.”
Nonetheless, growth in New York City was strong enough to push up the state’s total population by 417,704 people, or 2.2 percent, during the latest five-year period.
© 2016 Watertown Daily Times