A crowd on the Oceanside Pier. REUTERS/Mike Blake

California’s population declined by 182,083 people, or 0.5%, in 2020, bringing the Golden State’s estimated total to 39,466,855 people as of Jan. 1.

The new population number from the California Department of Finance marks the first annual decline since the state began producing population estimates.

Officials cited three major factors: approximately 24,000 fewer births, 100,000 fewer immigrants and 51,000 more deaths due to COVID-19.

The falling birthrate mirrors national and worldwide trends, while the Trump administration’s hard-line policies reduced immigration. But the COVID deaths were unexpected.

“The COVID-19 pandemic increased California deaths in 2020 by 51,000 — 19% above the average death rate for the three preceding years,” according to the report.

Growth remained strong in the interior counties of the Sacramento Valley, the Central Valley and the Inland Empire, but coastal and northern counties saw population losses.

Both San Diego County and the city of San Diego experienced population declines. The county’s population fell by 0.5% to 3,315,404 while the city’s population dropped 0.7% to 1,411,034.

One bright spot in the report was housing. California constructed 103,073 new units in 2020 — the first time the state built over 100,000 units since 2008. The city of San Diego had a net gain of 3,897 units.

“As pandemic-related deaths decline and with changes in federal policy, California is expected to return to a slightly positive annual growth when calendar year 2021 population estimates are released in May 2022,” according to the Department of Finance.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.