These Are America\u2019s 19 Fastest Shrinking Big Cities

The U.S. population experienced historically slow growth in 2022, increasing just 0.4% compared to the previous year. While some American cities over the past half decade or so have undergone extreme population growth, a number of prominent American urban areas recorded a major exodus of residents. While many of these declines occurred in Rust Belt metropolitan areas, there are many exceptions. 

To identify the most rapidly-shrinking large United States cities, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed population data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey one-year estimates. We listed all 19 metropolitan statistical areas with at least a 5% population drop from 2016 to 2021. We added seasonally-adjusted December employment figures – used to calculate employment growth from 2016 to 2021 – from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

The enduring shifts in U.S. geographical patterns remain unchanged. A substantial share of the nation’s population resides within three states: California, Texas, and Florida, with the latter two states contributing significantly to population growth. However, our findings reveal that even within the most populous states, specific metro areas experienced a decline in residents. (Also see, the 15 countries Americans are moving to the most.)

West Virginia continues to contend with population loss. Among the 19 metropolitan areas that saw the greatest population decline over the past five years, three are the state of West Virginia. Additionally, Illinois also exhibits a noteworthy presence on this list with three of its metro areas featured. The Prairie State is one of ten states that experienced population contraction between 2018 and 2019. Both Nebraska and Arkansas each contribute two metro areas to the list.

The metropolitan areas on this list range from the least-populous Danville, Illinois, with 73,000 residents, to the more populated Corpus Christi, Texas, with 423,000 residents. While not on this list, some smaller population centers are also shrinking. . These are America’s disappearing small towns.

Notably, Kalamazoo-Portage, Michigan, experienced the most substantial percentage-based population decline. It is remarkable that this metro area was the sole one to observe an increase in unemployment from 2016 to 2021.

Click here to see America’s fastest shrinking big cities.

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