Is California’s population decline a pandemic glitch or the start of a new era? – Orange County Registry

The numbers suggest a major shift is underway in California. It would take a Nostradamus to know if this change is real and lasting or if those proclaiming it are simply overreacting to a pandemic-induced problem.

“We are in this new demographic era for California of very slow or even negative growth,” says Hans Johnson, a demographer at the Public Policy Institute of California.

Here are the numbers, and some of the implications if those numbers represent a trend rather than just a problem caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has driven millions around the world into hiding wherever they are: US census figures show California lost 262,000 residents between July 1, 2020 and the same date last year. This represented a net loss of 0.06% of the population.

The numbers were even starker for the state’s two best-known urban counties. Los Angeles County lost about 159,671 people, or about 1% of its population, while San Francisco lost about 56,000 people, or about 6% of its previous population.

Much of the move away from these high-rent towns has been to other parts of California as the pandemic has pushed tens of thousands of white-collar workers to work from home — and allowed them to install wherever they want. As a result, many have moved to more rural and greener areas, prioritizing lifestyle over proximity to the office.

It’s a trend that the high-density zealots who currently run California’s housing policy should take note, because it shows that given the choice, most human beings will choose not to live in high-rise buildings. of apartments and condominiums.

The 2020-21 population loss comes after California suffered the shock of losing a congressional seat this year, the result of either an incomplete census or slow growth overtaken by states like Texas, Florida , Arizona, Colorado and Oregon.

But is all of this permanent? If so, it requires major changes in housing, transportation and education policies. History suggests it won’t last. The same goes for the latest employment figures.

Historically, slowdowns in California’s population growth have been followed by large influxes, from both domestic and foreign immigration.

More recently, in the early 1990s, the supposed end of the Cold War led to major job losses among defense contractors who had been the backbone of Southern California’s economy since World War II. A wave of military base closures later in that decade also cost California jobs.

As a result, population growth slowed to almost nothing for several years. Then came the 2000s and a sharp increase that took the population from around 33 million to over 39 million.

Is the same kind of resurgence in sight? It probably depends on how quickly people around the world come to accept the idea that the pandemic may be over and that Covid should instead be seen as an endemic disease that will always be with us, but usually not in numbers. or in alarming intensity.

The latest employment statistics indicate that such a trend may be beginning. In February, for example, Californian businesses created 138,100 new jobs, or 20.4% of all new jobs nationwide. That was 60,300 more jobs than No. 2 Texas and 87,100 more than Florida. That was well above what California’s 11.5% share of the national population might suggest.

It also means California recovered more than 87.2% of the jobs lost when countless businesses closed and furloughed their workers when the pandemic hit in March 2020.

The large job losses of this period eliminated most of the incentives for foreign workers to settle here, as the state, for the first time in decades, found itself with a surplus of healthy workers. . It’s over, with the new employment figures indicating that the state and its myriad of newly created businesses should once again be a magnet for the population.

Of course, no one will know for sure for about a year, when the 2022 numbers are compiled and released.

But the most recent numbers suggest at least one thing: People like Johnson, trumpeting California’s continued decline, are most likely premature and will come to regret their remarks.

Because no one has ever made a lasting fortune betting against California.

Email Thomas Elias at [email protected]