According to new U.S. Census Bureau estimates released last week, nine of New Jersey’s 21 counties lost population between 2016 and 2017. All nine of these counties also lost population in the previous year (from 2015 to 2016), although in most cases the 2016-2017 loss was smaller. Only Cumberland County lost more people from 2016 to 2017 than it had from 2015 to 2016.
“The state’s more urban counties are generally faring much better than the exurban ones, as has been the case since the Great Recession of 2008,” said New Jersey Future Executive Director Peter Kasabach. “While Ocean County was the fastest-growing county this year, as it was last year, the next five top positions are all held by counties of the North Jersey urban core, all of which grew faster than the statewide growth rate of 0.3 percent.
“This is further evidence of a move to, or back to, more compact walkable places with existing infrastructure and vibrant downtowns,” Kasabach continued. “These places are reaping the benefits of accelerated economic growth, and counties that are helping to support this trend are benefiting as well.”
Hudson County hit a milestone as of 2017 — with its current population estimate sitting at 691,643. It has now surpassed its previous population peak of 690,730, which it had achieved in 1930. The county has gained back all of the population it lost during the era of suburbanization and de-industrialization, after falling to a low of 553,099 in 1990. Union County also earlier this decade surpassed its previous population peak, which it had achieved in 1971.
The New Jersey counties losing population over the past year include all of the counties that are farthest from the state’s two core urban areas: Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, and Salem in the south, and Sussex, Warren and Hunterdon in the north. These northern counties represent the formerly fast-growing exurban fringe of the New York metro area, now faltering as millennials increasingly opt for more walkable urban areas.