California’s population has declined for the first time in its history.
State officials announced Friday that the nation’s most populous state lost 182,083 people in 2020. California’s population is now just under 39.5 million. It had shown only very small annual increases for the last several years.
Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau announced the state would lose a congressional seat for the first time because it grew more slowly than other states during the past decade.
State officials blamed the loss on a declining birth rate, reductions in immigration and an increase in deaths because of the coronavirus, which killed 51,000 people in 2020.
The state Department of Finance says it expects California to add population next year.
California has seen more people leave than move in from other states for much of the last three decades. However, that had been more than offset by immigration and births.
The state’s population has become a political issue this year in light of the effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom, with Republicans blaming high taxes and the governor’s policies for people fleeing the state.