CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Deaths continue to outpace births in West Virginia, which experienced the highest drop in population of any state in the nation during a one-year period, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released Tuesday.
The estimates show West Virginia lost 4,623, or 0.25 percent of its population, between July 2014 and July 2015.
There were 940 more deaths than births in West Virginia during the period. Maine was the only other state where deaths outpaced births.
Six other states also lost population: Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Mississippi, New Mexico and Vermont.
North Dakota was the nation’s fastest-growing state for the fourth year in a row, climbing at 2.3 percent last year.
West Virginia has the country’s second-highest concentration of older residents. According to Census figures, 16 percent of its population is 65 or older, compared with 17.3 percent in Florida.
The bulk of West Virginia’s population loss in the past year came from people leaving the state. The availability of jobs could determine whether that continues.
In September, Proctor & Gamble broke ground for a manufacturing plant in Berkeley County. The plant is expected to employ 700 people full time when it opens in 2017.
But manufacturing employment in West Virginia dropped by 1.4 percent, or 1,184 jobs, from July 2014 to July 2015, according to the West Virginia Manufacturers Register database. Coal industry employment declined 4 percent. Other sectors posting job losses included industrial machinery and chemical processing.
West Virginia University researchers have predicted the state’s coal industry employment will fall at a rate of about 1 percent annually through 2020.
West Virginia’s unemployment rate in November was 6.5 percent, the second highest in the nation.
West Virginia is 38th in population among the states, with 1.8 million residents. According to Census estimates, the state has lost 12,155 residents since its population hit nearly 1.9 million in July 2012.
If it continues to lag behind the population growth of other states, West Virginia would be at risk of losing one of its three U.S. House seats in the 2020 reapportionment. West Virginia lost a U.S. House seat after the 1990 Census.