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Upstate population losses drag down New York's total

U.S. Census Bureau
Empire Center for Public Policy
New York's population is up overall since 2010, but that's not the case for most of upstate. All counties in central and northern New York except Tompkins County have lost more residents than they gained.

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that New York's statewide population fell for the first time in a decade, largely a result of upstate population losses outpacing the gains made downstate.

From 2015 to 2016, downstate's population increased by 21,000 people, but that was not enough to cancel out the losses in upstate. Numbers were down in Onondaga, Oswego, Oneida and Jefferson counties, contributing to an overall loss of 23,000 people in upstate. Most of that decline is because of migration, people choosing to leave these counties and New York state altogether.

Ken Girardin, from the conservative Empire Center, says it's hard to know exactly why the numbers are falling, but it does shed some light on the broader economic health of the state.

"And in this case, because we are seeing so many people move away and not get replaced by other people, it’s an indicator that the regional economies aren't very strong and they are not providing the kind of economic growth that would attract population the way that other states are seeing," Girardin said. "It’s obvious that the state needs to do more to improve the business climate to make it a more attractive place to operate a business, and as a result for people to live here and move here."

Despite the losses from 2015 to 2016, New York's overall population is up two percent since 2010. That's no thanks to the 43 counties in upstate that lost more residents than they gained over the past six years. Tompkins County is the lone exception to the trend in central and northern New York. 

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.