From the Star Ledger:
New Jersey may have lost population for the first time in a decade, new data shows, potentially imperiling economic growth and the number of Congressional seats it holds in the coming years.
New estimates from the American Community Survey suggest New Jersey lost about 13,000 people from 2015 to 2016, which would reverse several years of slow growth since the state was decimated by the housing crisis in the mid-to-late-2000s.
Experts were wary of making too much of the figure, noting that it was an estimate and only a slight decrease, but said it points to a broader trend — New Jersey isn’t growing.
“When you have strong population growth, like in Texas for example, those new people need places to live, places to shop. All of that benefits jobs, benefits the economy,” said James Hughes, a professor at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. “If you don’t have that, you’re certainly going to have limited economic growth.”
Analysis by NJ Advance Media shows about 226,000 people moved out of the state between 2015 and 2016, about 30,000 less than the total who moved to the Garden States from within the country and abroad.
With a historically low birth rate, New Jersey’s growth has hinged upon immigration for several years. But the number of people leaving keeps growing, stagnating the state’s population on the cusp of nine million.
“My gut says that much of the stagnation we continue to see is driven by a combination of factors,” said Jon Whiten, Vice President of New Jersey Policy Perspective. “Among them would certainly be the broad trend away from sprawl and unchecked suburban development, which was New Jersey’s stock in trade for some time.”
Data shows that trend continued in 2016, while Atlantic County and rural counties in South Jersey also struggled with population retention.
“For a long time, we had a lot of automobile-centric growth. Rail now determines ecomic opportunity. That’s a fundamental change,” Hughes said.