Jefferson County Population Grows, St. Lawrence & Lewis Shrink

| WWNY (CBS Watertown)

Unlike most of upstate New York, Jefferson County is gaining residents.

“Jefferson County was one of just nine counties in upstate New York that had a higher population in 2015 than it did in 2010,” said Ken Girardin, policy analyst with the Empire Center for Public Policy.

The group says Jefferson County ranked first in the entire state in “natural increase.”

That means there were 6,788 more births than deaths in the last five years.

“When you look at younger people, they’re the ones that are having the families, so that gives us a bump in the natural increase,” said Jefferson County Senior Planner Mike Bourcy.

But Jefferson County lost 5,617 people, who moved out of the area.

Still, between the 6,700 net births, 5,600 people leaving and some statistical adjustments, Jefferson County gained about 1,400 people in the last five years.

“Jefferson County really bucked the trend. Presumably, Fort Drum played a big part in that,” said Girardin.

But the population of the north country’s other two counties is slightly declining.

Lewis lost 117 people and St. Lawrence lost 934 people.

That can make it tougher for businesses in counties that are losing people.

“One of the challenges they have is finding good people to employ, to come and work at their facilities and it’s partly because of that problem we have that we know that some of our younger people and other people move away from the area,” said Eric Virkler, director of Economic Development of Lewis County.

St. Lawrence and Lewis counties aren’t alone.

In the last five years, more than 3,100 people left upstate New York.

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