Population Decline Continues to Trouble Local Region
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, every county in the western part of Pennsylvania, with the exception of Butler County, has seen continuous declines in population over the last eight years.
Clarion County’s population has gone from 40,290 residents in 2010 down to 38,747 residents in 2017, a decline of about 3.8 percent.
“I think it’s really an issue everywhere,” Clarion County Commissioner Ted Tharan told exploreClarion.com.
“Families are smaller. People are waiting longer to start having kids, and instead of four or five, they’re just having two.
“We also have an older population, and every day you see three to five obituaries in the paper, but I don’t think we’re having that many births, so it’s a natural decline. We’re also having a lot of young people moving to the cities.”
The problem certainly isn’t confined to Clarion County, though.
Venango County saw a similar decline over the years, going from 55,320 residents in 2010 to 52,880 residents in 2017, a decline of nearly 4.5 percent.
“I would definitely consider it an issue for the county,” said Venango County Commissioner Vince Witherup. “But, I believe we’re probably at the bottom of the valley and heading back up the other way. It’s going to be a long, slow road to recovery to get back to where we were ten or fifteen years ago, though.”
Even though Jefferson County is also dealing with a decline, the county saw somewhat less of one, going from 45,244 residents in 2010 to 44,258 residents in 2017, a loss of just 2.2 percent.
While the problem can be contributed to a combination of an aging population and migration to more urban population centers, the same decline is not seen in the more eastern reaches of the state, where continued increases in population helped the state’s overall population grow from 12,709,630 in 2010 to 12,805,537 in 2017, a 12 percent growth in the overall population.
With a portion of the eastern part of the state considered urban and suburban area, the difference in demographics is not surprising.
“It’s the cities that attract the younger people,” noted Tharan.
“There will always be problems down the road.
“I don’t think we’ll have enough workers in the area, and we already have a shortage of people to fill jobs now. Every business seems to have out a help wanted sign.”
Nevertheless, increases in the population in urban areas may also be pushing others to consider more rural climes.
Witherup commented, “From what I’m seeing, especially in Franklin and the surrounding areas, but probably all over the county, the growth of Pittsburgh to the north has a lot of folks in their retirement years coming here, looking for a slower lifestyle and a nicer place to live. I think that has really helped the county.”
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