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McHenry County gained population in latest U.S. Census figures, but not much

368-people increase ends 4-year streak of population loss

McHenry County broke its four-year streak of losing population, but not by much, according to new U.S. Census figures.

The county gained 368 people between July 2014 and July 2015, marking the first time since the 2010 U.S. Census that its population rose rather than fell in an annual estimate.

That increase, however, does not offset the more than 1,400 people the county is estimated to have lost since 2010. What’s more, figures show the exodus from Illinois continues unabated.

Estimates put McHenry County’s population last July at 307,343, slightly higher than the 306,975 people who lived here in July 2014.

The 2010 decennial census had put the county’s population at 308,760 – short from its previous unofficial estimate of 321,000 – and the number had been dropping in every annual estimate since.

By comparison, the county between 2000 and 2010 grew by 18.7 percent, or 48,683 residents, about double the concert capacity of the United Center.

Even with the new growth, the county’s population has decreased a half-percent since the 2010 census.

If the trend continues over the next five years, this decade will be the first in which McHenry County’s population has decreased. It has increased in each decennial U.S. Census since the county’s 1836 founding.

A major culprit in the county’s stagnant growth is the bursting of the housing bubble in the late 2000s and the Great Recession that followed.

Besides stopping the county’s growth cold, it hurt the local economy, which was significantly dependent on construction and housing jobs.

Recent census numbers only tell part of the story when it comes to what the population trends could mean for McHenry County. Another population survey is raising an alarm in county government over one particular demographic.

An economic development study commissioned for McHenry, Boone and Winnebago counties concluded the three counties lost almost 8 percent of 25- to 44-year-old residents – the demographic that sets down roots, starts families and opens businesses – between 2010 and 2014. That loss is about 12 times what the Chicago region lost in the same demographic.

The population news released by the census is not rosy for the Chicago area, either.

While McHenry County has snapped its trend and gained slightly more people than it lost, the Chicago region recorded a drop – its first in more than a quarter century. Chicago’s metropolitan statistical area, of which McHenry County is a part, lost more than 6,200 people between July 2014 and July 2015, which was the greatest loss for any metropolitan area nationwide.

The city was the only of the 20 largest metro areas to lose more people than it gained through births and in-migration.

The statistical area covers Cook and its collar counties, several other counties in northeastern Illinois, northwest Indiana and Kenosha County in Wisconsin. Illinois’ ongoing population loss hit a record last year, exceeding 100,000 for the first time, according to census data.

While international migration and births pared the net loss to 22,194 people, Illinois still led all 50 states in population loss, and was only one of only seven states to see a population decline.

OUTBOX

By the Numbers

• 386: The number of people McHenry County gained last year.

• 1,400: The county’s total population decrease since the 2010 U.S. Census

• 105,200: The number of people Illinois lost last year to outmigration

SOURCE – U.S. Census figures for the period between July 2014 and July 2015.

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