Cattaraugus County’s population continued to drop in the first half of this decade, losing 3.03 percent of its residents and leaving it in 55th place among 62 counties in terms of population growth.
The 2010 census showed Cattaraugus County with 80,317 residents. As of Dec. 31, 2015, it had dropped to 77,885, a loss of 2,432.
From 2010 to 2015, 2,789 people left the county, or 3.47 percent of the population, a report by the Empire Center for Public Policy in Albany shows. At the same time, there was a natural increase in the population of 524, or 0.65 percent.
Combined, the migration to other counties or states and the natural increase in population show 2,432 fewer Cattaraugus County residents at the end of 2015 than the 2010 census figures.
This puts Cattaraugus County at number 55 in terms of population growth, the report shows.
There were 315 foreign immigrants added to the county’s population during the period, putting Cattaraugus County in 45th place among New York counties with new foreign-born immigrants.
Coupled with a migration from the county of 3,104 residents, there was a net loss of 2,789 in population, or 3.47 percent, putting Cattaraugus County in 58th place in terms of migration.
By comparison, Allegany County, which had 49,946 residents in 2010, was down to 48,485 residents at the end of 2015. Its loss of residents left Allegany County in 53rd place.
Allegany County lost 1,525 residents, or 3.12 percent of its population, ranking it in 56th place in the state in terms of migration.
An increase of 148 Allegany County residents over the five years made for 1,461 fewer residents, down 2.98 percent from 2010, for 53rd place among other counties.
Forty-one New York counties — almost all Upstate counties — lost population during the period.
While New York City also had a large migration of residents, its growth of 417,704 came from immigrants. This was enough to push the state’s population about 2 percent despite Upstate losses, according to the report.
Crystal Abers, director of the Cattaraugus County Department of Economic Development, Planning and Tourism, said she was aware of the report and that county and local officials have been working on ways to encourage more people — especially young people — to stay.
For example, she pointed to the downtown development going on in Olean, as well as plans by other communities to rebuild their downtown center. “Hopefully, we can help maintain our population and grow it” with some of the new initiatives being proposed, Abers said.
“I’d like to think we’ve seen the worst of it,” Abers said in regard to the county’s latest drop in population. “It’s encouraging working with municipalities” on projects designed to stem the tide of migration.
“Look at all the good things that are going on in downtown Olean,” she said.
Chautauqua County was closer to the bottom of the list than Cattaraugus and Allegany counties. It was in 56th place in terms of population growth.
Chautauqua County lost 4,115 residents over the period, or 3.05 percent of its population as of the 2010 census.
© 2016 Olean Times Herald