NYC’s population plummeted during peak COVID – and it’s still likely to decline

The streets were desolate in Chinatown during the coronavirus outbreak, April 14, 2020. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

This article was originally published on by THE CITY

The streets were desolate in Chinatown during the coronavirus outbreak, April 14, 2020.

Anyone struggling to find a scarce apartment to rent might think locals are rebounding two years after COVID drove an exodus from New York. But information collected by the federal government suggests that, although the rate of decline is slowing, more people are still moving out or dying than people born or settling here.

Start with the Census Bureau, which released population estimates covering April 2020 through June 2021 in late March and found 300,000 fewer people living in New York City than before the pandemic.

Manhattan had one in three people who left or died, far more than its share of the city’s population.

To arrive at that number, government analysts took the 2020 census count, which found a record 8.8 million people in New York, and then did a bit of arithmetic — adding births, adding subtracting deaths (including 40,000 from COVID) and tracking the movements of the state establish.

The number of births has actually exceeded the number of deaths, including from COVID – but so many people have moved that the population has shrunk dramatically.

The result: The Census Bureau now estimates New York City’s population at 8.5 million as of July 1, 2021

Movements to other states were the main driver of population loss, along with contributions from COVID deaths and a decline in international migration.

The Census Bureau followed up last week with more bad news for New York: A new audit of its statewide 2020 census found it had overestimated New York’s population. York from about 382,000 to 1 million.

In its analysis of the sobering numbers in New York, the Department of Urban Planning called the population exodus “a result of temporary pandemic-related phenomena that ‘likely reversed in the second half of 2021.’

We won’t know for a while if that’s actually what happened. But in the meantime, other federal government figures suggest that, at the very least, the exodus out of New York may have slowed.

THE CITY reviewed United States Postal Service address change statistics to assess trends in the second half of 2021 and into 2022. The data does not distinguish between people who moved outside New York City and the people who moved there. But it shows that the overall movement has returned to pre-pandemic rates.

As of April this year, the agency had received 30,900 net address change requests – down significantly from 53,500 in 2021 and closer to 26,900 in the same period in 2019.

Where are people going? Internal Revenue Service records covering the 2019 and 2020 tax seasons provide some clues. They show that for every two people who move to New York from out of town, five people leave the city.

Just over 380,900 tax filers and their dependents swapped New York addresses in 2019 for out-of-state addresses in 2020, records show. Most of those who fled New York went to nearby suburbs and New Jersey.

Fairfield County, Connecticut, Los Angeles, Miami, Palm Beach, Florida and Philadelphia have also seen an influx of people into New York.

In the same period, the boroughs had 150,800 new taxpayers and their dependents, arriving from the neighboring area and other major metros, including LA and Miami.

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