Northeastern New Jersey, and Hudson County in particular, continues to drive the state’s small but significant population growth, new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show.
The municipal population figures released by census officials Thursday show a continuation of the recent trend of people — especially millennials — settling in the state’s more urban areas, fueling housing and population growth in cities and towns in north Jersey, especially those close to New York City. At the same time, even some baby boomers are abandoning the farthest suburbs to which they had flocked when starting their families, drawn by cheap housing and open space, leaving counties like Sussex and Salem with fewer residents than in 2010.
“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,” New Jersey Future Executive Director Peter Kasabach said recently, discussing population trends by county. “This is further evidence of a move to, or back to, more compact walkable places with existing infrastructure and vibrant downtowns. These places are reaping the benefits of accelerated economic growth, and counties that are helping to support this trend are benefiting as well.”
Soccer and PATH trains
Three of the five municipalities with the greatest increase in population between 2014 and 2017 were in Hudson County, led by Harrison. Home of soccer’s Red Bulls and a PATH station with trains to New York City and Newark, Harrison added more than 4,100 residents between the 2010 census and last July. After dropping between 2000 and 2010, population in the 1.3-square-mile town nestled in a crook of the Passaic River has risen by more than 30 percent this decade, driven by construction near the PATH station. Harrison is attractive to millennials looking for an affordable place to live in a compact community that is not far from New York City — less than 30 minutes by PATH train. Today, the population of the town is estimated at 17,643.
Behind Harrison, the municipalities with the largest population increases since 2014 are Weehawken in Hudson County (15.3 percent), Wood-Ridge in Bergen (13.6 percent), Mount Arlington in Morris (11.9 percent), and Secaucus in Hudson (9.2 percent).
On average, New Jersey’s population grew by less than 1 percent between 2014 and 2017 and by 2.4 percent since 2010, surpassing 9 million last year for the first time.
Slightly more than half of the state’s municipalities saw at least small population growth between 2010 and 2017, meaning close to half lost residents during that time.
New Jersey’s biggest losers
The three biggest losers are all communities that suffered major damage due to 2012’s superstorm Sandy: Maurice River Township in Cumberland County, Mantoloking in Ocean, and Union Beach in Monmouth. All see saw double-digit population drops.
Except for a few other suburban municipalities, the communities among the 30 that lost the most population were all in either Sussex or Salem counties. For instance, the number of residents in both Salem City and Stanhope in Sussex declined by more than 7 percent between 2010 and 2017. Salem City had 4,774 people last year, while Stanhope’s population totaled 3,341. These are places far from the state’s job centers, and more and more workers are unwilling to make long commutes by car in order to live in less-developed areas.
Urban areas have also benefitted from a continuing influx of immigrants, who largely settle in places where housing costs are cheaper, jobs are close by, and immigrant neighborhoods are already well established. All but two counties, Salem and Cape May, experienced at least some increase in population from births outnumbering deaths. Only one, however, had a net increase resulting from more people moving into the county from elsewhere in the United States than moving out: Ocean County netted a population bump of about 9,000, due to people relocating there between 2010 and 2017. Ocean has benefitted both from baby boomers moving into age-restricted communities for older people and from the influx of immigrants and Jews into Lakewood, which had a nearly 11 percent population increase since 2010 and, with 102,682 residents, is now the fifth most populous municipality in New Jersey.
In and out
Elsewhere, large numbers of immigrants moving in made up for the number of people who moved out. Bergen County, for instance, had the largest increase in net migration: 27,286 new residents, the result of 41,680 immigrants moving in outnumbering the 14,394 who left. Hudson County snagged the most immigrants, 74,640, but since 64,127 people moved out of the county between 2010 and 2017, it left Hudson with a net increase of 10,513 due to migration.
While Jersey City’s population rose faster than Newark’s — 9.3 percent versus 2.9 percent since 2010 — the city still needs to add almost 15,000 people if it is to surpass Newark as the state’s largest city. Newark’s population, which had been dropping for decades, is back on the rise and has reached 285,154, the census data shows.