Lucas County’s decades-old population exodus to other Ohio counties or out of state is continuing, but the flow appears to be slowing, according to Census statistics released on Wednesday.
The county lost just more than 1,900 residents between 2011 and 2012, keeping the downward population trend that dates to at least 2000. The constant decline can be attributed to factors from urban sprawl to declining job opportunties.
U.S. Census population estimates, which are based on available data as of July, 1, 2012, show that 437,998 people lived in Lucas County, down 1,916 from the estimate a year earlier and 3,813 below the official 2010 census count of 441,815.
In comparison, Wood County gained 1,291 residents in 2012 to grow to 128,200. Hancock County, with an estimated additional 560 people, and Fulton County, which added 16 residents, were the only other counties in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan to show growth.
Among Ohio’s largest counties, Franklin County added another 16,273 residents to increase its population to 1,196,537. Cuyahoga County lost 4,872 residents, shrinking to 1,265,111.
Dan Hammell, a University of Toledo professor in the department of geography and planning, said the slight drop in Lucas County’s population could reflect a slowing decline, but the county hasn’t yet recovered from the 2007 recession.
“I think more than anything else, it is just simply the economy. Things are holding on. But they certainly are not improving,” he said.
“We are doing OK, but we are not having the economic growth that other areas in the country are experiencing.”
Lucas County’s unemployment rate in January was 9.6 percent, nearly 2 points higher than the 7.9 percent national average.
The Census Bureau’s methodology for the yearly estimates show that in Lucas County, births exceeded deaths, but more people left than moved into the county.
According to historical data, the county had a migration loss of an estimated 3,671 residents, surpassing the 513 new international immigrants and births of 5,504 that exceeded the 4,304 deaths.
There also was a slight decline in the Toledo metropolitan area, which includes Lucas, Wood, Fulton, and Ottawa counties. The Census estimates the population fell to 608,711, a drop of 609 residents from 2011.
To the north, Monroe and Lenawee counties’ populations both dropped, with Monroe going from 151,609 to 151,048 and Lenawee from 99,340 to 98,987. Financially troubled Detroit continued to lose residents, with Wayne County’s population falling from 1,801,789 to 1,792,365.
David Gedeon, transportation project manager for the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments, said mobility could have been a factor in declines, especially for Lucas County, because of the road network that supports commuting to work.
Former Lucas County residents have not necessarily moved out of the region, but merely to a nearby county where they remain part of the local work force, Mr. Gedeon said.
“People are willing to drive further distances, and this could be an indication of people having to drive farther to work or people have chosen to live further away from their jobs,” he said.
Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said sales of existing homes and new home construction both picked up in his county, but have not returned to pre-recession levels. Commercial and industrial construction are both on the upswing, he said.
“There should be jobs coming along with that, and that might explain why we had more people move into the county than moved out,” he said. “The overall picture is there are positive things in terms of people wanting to live here.”
Contact Mark Reiter at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 419-724-6199.
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