Marin County’s population fell by 699 residents during the last fiscal year, one of the largest declines among California counties, according to the state Department of Finance.
Only Humboldt, Ventura, Sonoma, Los Angeles and Butte counties had greater population declines between July 1, 2018, and July 1, 2019, the state said. Butte County lost nearly 15,000 homes in the Camp wildfire, displacing about 38,000 people.
Marin’s rate of decline, -0.27%, was the 12th highest in the state for the year. The finance department said 22 of the 58 counties posted net population losses.
The county’s population loss was its second year-over-year decline in the past decade. The other was in the 2016-17 cycle.
The state finance department released the data last week, reporting a net statewide increase of 141,300 people, to 39.96 million.
“This represents a growth rate of 0.35%, down from 0.57% for the prior 12 months — the two lowest recorded growth rates in state population since 1900,” the department said.
The preliminary population for Marin for the 12-month period was 261,627, the department said. It was 262,326 in the prior year.
Marin’s population changes for the recent fiscal year included 2,119 births, 1,929 deaths and a net migration of -1,485.
Robert Eyler, chief economist for the Marin Economic Forum, said he saw “little economic implication” in the county’s population decline. He noted that the state data provide no demographic details on the lost residents or whether they were still working.
“Such a small population change is (unlikely) to have any effect,” said Eyler, a professor at Sonoma State University.
Mina Martinovich, the county’s assistant finance director, said Marin’s birth and death data “have remained fairly consistent.”
“However, the rate at which individuals and families are moving out of the county is significantly outpacing the population that is moving in,” Martinovich said. “While there are a variety of factors that would explain this, I am sure we can all agree that cost of living and the sharp decline in affordability within the state of California, the Bay Area, and Marin County is significant.”
Martinovich said the county’s budget managers expect slowing growth over the next five years.
Across the rest of the nine-county Bay Area, Napa County’s population declined 0.36%, while Sonoma County declined 0.40%.
Cynthia Murray, president and CEO of the North Bay Leadership Council, said “the housing crisis is very real in the North Bay.”
“It is forcing out our younger workforce to live where housing is more affordable,” she said. “It is also driving out seniors who want to ensure that their retirement funds are not consumed by housing alone.
“The lack of housing is causing serious issues with employers not being able to fill job openings. The labor shortage is begat by the housing shortage which in turn is threatening the North Bay’s economic vitality. Companies can’t afford to keep raising wages to compete so they are looking at more automation or expanding elsewhere or leaving.”
The population of Alameda County grew 0.68%; Contra Costa, 0.50%; San Francisco, 0.31%; San Mateo, 0.22%; Santa Clara, 0.26%; and Solano, 0.49%.
Eddie Hunsinger, a demographer with the state Department of Finance, pointed to increasing death rates from an aging population and a declining birth rate as causes for the slow population growth. Although more Bay Area residents are moving out than moving in, he says the region and state continue to attract new arrivals.
“There’re still hundreds of thousands of people moving to California each year,” he said.