Thanks mainly to a pandemic-driven boost in its already high outflows to other states, New York has just suffered its largest single-year population loss ever—and the worst, in percentage terms, of any state in the past year—according to Census Bureau estimates released today.

As of last July 1, the Empire State’s total population had dropped by 319,020 residents, or 1.6 percent, below the Census Bureau’s “estimates base” headcount of 12 months earlier, during a period when the total U.S. population increased at the slowest annual pace on record (just 0.1 percent, a gain of 392,665).  The population decline wiped out nearly half of the Empire State’s cumulative population gain of 823,147 people during the previous decade, pulling the statewide total back to below 20 million.

New York’s population decrease as of mid-2021 was due mainly to its net domestic migration loss of 352,185 residents—meaning 352,185 more people moved out of the state than moved in during the previous 12 months. This shattered all out-migration records, exceeding New York’s record annual migration losses during the late 1970s.

With international travel tightly restricted by pandemic rules, net foreign immigration to New York decreased during the period to just 18,860, the smallest number in at least 60 years. As a result, combining domestic outflows and foreign inflows, the state experienced a total net migration decrease of 333,878. Offsetting an elevated death count, which reflected the state’s exceptionally high COVID-19 casualty toll, a decrease in births during the year gave New York a small “natural increase” of 18,503 residents.*

The census estimates confirm a pandemic-driven trend informally tracked by news media outlets and real estate research firms based on address changes and cell phone movements, but the data are nonetheless striking in an historical context, as illustrated below.

Which areas of New York accounted for most of this loss?  The answer is almost certainly New York City, but official specifics won’t be available until the Census Bureau’s estimates of population changes for counties and municipalities are released in March.

Continuing a trend

New York population losses to other states were already mounting in the years leading up to the pandemic, and a slowdown in foreign immigration had brought the net migration decrease to levels rarely seen since the 1970s. But as shown above, the post-pandemic change was almost literally a chartbuster.

In absolute terms, whether measured from July 1, 2020, or from the decennial census count as of three months earlier, New York’s net domestic loss in the pandemic era has been exceeded only (slightly) by California’s. But relative terms, New York has been far and away the biggest loser, with a net domestic migration outflow equivalent to 1.7 percent of its July 1, 2020, estimated population.

Among 16 other states with net domestic outflows during the period, Illinois was runner-up to New York with a loss of 1 percent, followed by California with a drop of 0.9 percent. Among New York’s neighboring states, Massachusetts and New Jersey had net domestic migration losses of 0.7 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively, while Pennsylvania experienced no net migration change and Connecticut had a small estimated population gain during the year ending July 1.

The migration loss accounted for almost all of New York State’s total population decline—which was much larger in percentage terms than those of 15 other states that also experienced decreases in their total populations in the last year.

*The originally published version of this blog mischaracterized the birth total as an increase and erroneously reported the natural increase as measured by the Census Bureau a slightly longer period.

 

 

 

About the Author

E.J. McMahon

Edmund J. McMahon is Empire Center's founder and a senior fellow.

Read more by E.J. McMahon

You may also like

City union scandal isn’t NY’s first

One of New York City’s largest public-sector unions has been effectively taken over by its national parent after an audit revealed extensive financial mismanagement. It’s the latest example of misconduct made possible under New York’s public-sector collective bargaining rules that force the government to collect hundreds of millions of dollars annually without any safeguards on how the funds are spent.  Read More

NY Pandemic Learning Loss Data Under Wraps 

Nationwide test results revealing major pandemic learning loss have been front page news this month. Read More

The Essential Plan’s accumulated surplus balloons to $8 billion, with no fix in sight

The state's Essential Plan has generated billions in surpluses as the program automatically drew pandemic relief money that it did not need Read More

Firefighter-rights bill torches local control

Two of Albany’s most-vetoed concepts are headed toward Governor Hochul’s desk, this time concealed as a “firefighter bill of rights.”  Read More

Labor Day snapshot: payroll employment in New York still a tale of two states

Over the past three years, the Empire State's recovery has been steady but slow, moving payrolls back to within three percentage points of the 2019 pre-pandemic level Read More

“Protecting” Low Wage Workers — From Employment

As Labor Day weekend arrives, another push by Albany legislators to hike the state minimum wage is gaining steam. Read More

California’s “Flex Alert” Should Ring Alarm Bells in New York

In a bit of awkward timing, a severe heat wave is boosting electrical demand in California, causing the State to beg citizens to delay charging electric vehicles until after 9 p.m. Read More

NY pandemic recovery update: climbing, but still far behind

Private employment in New York State remained more than 300,000 jobs short of the pre-pandemic level Read More

Subscribe

Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100

General Inquiries: Info@EmpireCenter.org

Press Inquiries: Press@EmpireCenter.org

About

The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.

Empire Center Logo Enjoying our work? Sign up for email alerts on our latest news and research.
Together, we can make New York a better place to live and work!