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WVU professor notes positive trends in latest census figures


Recent population numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau show an overall population decline but some trends show change is gradually coming.

WVU economist John Deskins said 4,700 people moved to the state between July 1, 2022, and July 1, 2023. The net migration number is up from about 2,000 last year.

Recent major economic development announcements have fueled that trend, according to Deskins.

“That’s two years in a row now we’ve seen more people move into West Virginia versus the number who moved away,” Deskins said Wednesday on MetroNews “Talkline.” “I think it’s very encouraging, and we have to keep it up. We have to find ways to make it more attractive for people to move into the state.”

Deaths continue to outpace births, and that trend will continue. A total of 17,263 births were recorded in the period, compared to 25,929 deaths.

“We’ve had this natural population decline for about a decade now, and that’s not going to go away for at least the next few years,” Deskins said. “I’m sure when I come on next year, we’re still going to have population decline this time next year.”

The reality of the report is that the state population continues to decline, and recent gains are hopefully the beginning of a new trend. Deskins said despite the number of lost businesses, government leaders are implementing adjustments that are bringing positive change.

“We lost about 4,000 people from the middle of 2022 to the middle of 2023, and all together, we’ve lost about 21,000 since the 2020 U.S. Census,” Deskins said. “That represents about 1.3% of the population lost over the last three years.”

A growing economy becomes a beacon for companies that are expanding or looking for a new home. A growing economic climate creates opportunities for workers and the capacity for businesses to grow.

“It’s harder to attract businesses to grow our economy and increase economic prosperity if we have fewer people,” Deskins said. “For one thing, they want to be able to find the workers they need to operate a big, successful business, so if we have fewer people, that means fewer workers, and economic development is harder.”

Deskins said job growth and efforts to recruit remote workers could be the remedy for the aging population in the state. The 4,700 people who moved to the state could be the beginning of a gradual reduction in the average age of the population.

“We have more people in the over-65-year-old category, fewer people in the 0-18 and 18045-year-old
categories, and the statistics point to a natural population decline,” Deskins said.