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Population grows locally, across California for first time since 2020

After three years of gradual population loss in California, the state has experienced a small rebound.

According to a report released on April 30 by the California Department of Finance (DOF), California’s population increased by roughly 67,000 people last year to 39,128,162. In total, 254 jurisdictions gained population while 283 lost population. Of the counties that saw population growth were Stanislaus and Merced. Each city in Stanislaus County had a rise in residents while Merced County only had one city (Gustine) lose population.

Stanislaus County as a whole saw the population rise from 545,753 to 548,744 (2,991 people) in a year’s time. In Turlock, the population grew from 70,885 in 2022 to 71,273 last year — an increase of 388 people. In nearby Hughson, the population increased by 172 people to 7,711. Denair’s population has remained predominantly the same with just over 4,200 residents. 

Merced County’s population rose from 285,193 in 2022 to 287,303 in 2023, marking an increase of 2,110 people. Hilmar's population grew by roughly 150 people to 6,732. The main catalyst in the county, though, was Merced, whose population increased to 91,837. An increase of 1,717 in a year’s time, Merced is ranked as the ninth-fastest growing city (with populations of over 30,000) in the entire state.

For California, the data marks the first time since 2020 that the state experienced positive population growth, with the DOF citing decreased mortality rates and a rebound in legal foreign immigration as the main catalysts. The department notes that the number of people living in California could be much higher as the statistics do not account for those seeking asylum at the border. They also do not count those who may have already entered the country illegally.

Governor Gavin Newsom wasted little time to share and celebrate the findings of the report, releasing a statement less than an hour after its posting.

“People from across the nation and the globe are coming to the Golden State to pursue the California Dream and experience the success of the world’s 5th largest economy,” Newsom said. “From the Inland Empire to the Bay Area, regions throughout California are growing – strengthening local communities and boosting our state’s future.”

Nevertheless, the population remains much smaller than what it was in the pre-pandemic era in 2019, when the United States Census Bureau reported the state having a population of approximately 39.44 million.

At the second annual Turlock Business Conference on March 14, California Department of Finance chief economist Somjita Mitra cited the high cost of living as the reason many residents moved to other states. According to a study conducted by SoFi last year, the average cost of living in California is $53,082 per year.

The DOF predicts that California will continue to experience slower but positive growth for the near future.