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It's slow growing for St. Louis as region slips down list of big metro areas
Of 25 big metro areas, St. Louis ranks 23rd in growth rate

It's slow growing for St. Louis as region slips down list of big metro areas

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The population of the 15-county St. Louis region edged up by 0.2 percent last year — an increase of about 5,400 people — according to U.S. Census estimates released Thursday.

Among the nation’s 25 largest metropolitan areas, that was the third-slowest rate of growth, ahead of Detroit and Chicago, which was the only large metro area that lost people.

St. Louis, which held steady at about 2.81 million people, is now the 20th-largest region in the U.S., having been leapfrogged by the surging Denver metro area, which gained an estimated 58,000 residents just last year.

The St. Louis region has added an estimated 24,000 people since 2010. Among the 25 largest metro areas, only Detroit has added fewer people. More people have left the region than moved in during the past five years, but the population was pushed upward because of births.

Across the U.S., growth was disproportionately concentrated in the south and west. The sprawling metropolises of Dallas and Houston continued to boom, with Houston alone adding 159,000 people. Factor in the San Antonio and Austin metro areas, and four Texas regions gained more than 412,000 people last year — more than any entire state.

With some exceptions, many portions of the Midwest and Rust Belt continued to see slow or stagnant growth, and some midsize metro areas, such as Pittsburgh and Cleveland, lost people.

Locally, the pattern of exurban growth continued, with St. Charles County adding 5,600 people between 2014 and 2015, more than any other Missouri county. The county now has an estimated 385,590 residents, up more than 25,000 since 2010, a rise of about 7 percent, and up nearly 100,000 people since the turn of the century.

St. Louis County’s population grew by an estimated 1,200 people last year, to a little more than 1 million.

Residents continued to trickle out of the city of St. Louis, though if recent estimates hold true until the next decennial Census, the city’s decline will have slowed to its lowest rate in the more than 60 years since population peaked in 1950. The city now has about 315,700 residents, according to Census figures.

A bright spot for both the city and the county was the number of immigrants moving in, though the overall migration flow for both was still negative.

While the city’s decline has historically been the focus when population figures are released, the Metro East has suffered the most in recent years when it comes to population loss. Since 2010, the Illinois side of the St. Louis metro region has lost an estimated 11,500 people, while the Missouri side gained more than 35,000 residents.

Illinois as a whole lost 22,000 people — more than any other state in the country.

Both Madison and St. Clair counties saw gains between 2000 and 2010, but that growth has stopped, according to Census figures, which indicate the counties together have lost more than 9,000 residents since then.

Since 2010, St. Clair County had the largest population decline in the region, at about 6,000 people, a 2.2 percent drop. In percentage terms, Bond County declined the most since 2010, falling 4.6 percent to 16,950.

“We have an aging population,” said Matt Brandmeyer, Madison County’s planning and development administrator. The number of births in the county hasn’t been enough to offset the number of people who have moved away.

The numbers started dropping in 2008, he said, and after the recession, millennials have been slower to buy homes and start families. But the declines have been slowing, he said, making him optimistic the trend will soon reverse.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

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Walker Moskop is a data specialist and reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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