TRENTON â In the first 15 months of the pandemic, the onset of which nearly coincides with the 2020 census, population plummeted in eight New Jersey counties, pushing the state to an overall net loss of nearly 22,000 residents.
The Census Bureau’s annual population estimates projected New Jersey’s population in 2020 to be more than 400,000 less than the actual number, and any bugs in that methodology could persist. On top of that, the pandemic has hampered the 2020 count and other Census Bureau programs.
Tim Evans, director of research for New Jersey Future, said he wasn’t suspicious of the Census Bureau’s methods, but the data should be viewed with caution because it was a COVID-related aberration. The declines are not a cause for concern at this time because the pandemic has muddied things up â but probably not permanently.
âIt’s hard to discern a trend through this extraordinary noise â which isn’t really one. I mean, it’s a signal,â Evans said. “It’s something that’s really happening, but it’s something temporary that obscures the underlying trends.”
“They accurately capture what happened, but what happened is an anomaly,” he said. “We’re going to get back to some sort of balance once this pandemic subsides.”
The state’s estimated population has shrunk by about 22,000 in 15 months. It’s not alone in this decline: Nineteen states and Washington, DC, have lost population since the 2020 census, conducted by New York.
The story continues below the chart, and county rankings and details are at the end of the post.
Hudson County’s population fell by more than 3% between April 1, 2020 and July 1, 2021, the estimated ninth-largest drop in the nation among counties with at least 50,000 people. Its decline of nearly 22,400 was actually slightly larger than the state as a whole.
For many counties where populations have apparently declined, a shift that began five years ago may have contributed more than the pandemic itself.
Annual increases in statewide immigration exceeded 55,000 a year from 2013 to 2017, then plunged at the end of the last decade at a rate of one-fifth, Evans said. In the first 15 months after the census, it is estimated to have added 10,800 residents to the state.
“It’s more likely national immigration policy that affects it, although it’s true that I think the pandemic has caused a drop in the number of people moving around, trying to come to the United States,” he said. he declared.
Evans said the four counties that would have seen declines greater than 0.5% â Hudson, Passaic, Essex and Union â are popular destinations for new immigrants.
Perennial leader, Ocean County was still the fastest growing county in the state, up nearly 11,800 or 1.8%. After that, the percentage gains were greatest in the unlikely trio of Warren, Sussex and Hunterdon counties â potentially a measure of people seeking less populated areas in the age of working from home.
Deaths exceeded births in more than half of New Jersey counties in the first 15 months of the pandemic, according to estimates. Evans said over time, these impacts should balance out, as older residents died earlier than they would have had it not been for the pandemic.
Evans said that in recent years the state has averaged about 75,000 deaths per year. In the 12 months ending July 1, 2021, estimates indicate that more than 90,500 died in the state.
“Basically what COVID has done is preloaded like two or three years of death,” Evans said. “So you see a peak this year and then for the next two or three years you’re probably going to see less than average.”
After the 1918 flu, it took eight years for New Jersey’s death toll to exceed its pre-pandemic total.
But this pandemic is much longer than that of a century ago, with the total number of deaths in January – the 22nd month of the pandemic – the second highest since it began, according to figures from the Ministry of Health. State Health.
The estimates change the population rankings of some counties in New Jersey.
Although down by almost 2,400 people, Middlesex County now ranks as the second most populous county in the state, ahead of Essex County, which has 8,800 fewer people.
Ocean County is believed to have overtaken Monmouth County to become the fifth most populous county in the state. Ocean grew by 11,800 in those 15 months, overtaking Monmouth, although the latter’s growth of about 1,700 was fourth in the state.
And Camden County is now considered bigger than shrinking Passaic County, swapping the eighth and ninth rankings.
The county’s population estimates were released six weeks ago. Estimates at the municipal level are expected this month.
Changes in NJ County populations since 2020
The Census Bureau’s estimates of county population changes since the 2020 Census of April 1, 2020 also provide some insight into COVID-era trends, as that’s around the same time the pandemic took hold. start. The list below sorts New Jersey’s 21 counties by their total change between the census and the July 1, 2021 estimate.
Michael Symons is the Statehouse Bureau Chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]
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