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‘A whole generation, we lost’: Declining population fueled by job loss around Youngstown

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The number of people who call Youngstown home continues to drop. New numbers released by the Census Bureau on Thursday show they went down again last year. It’s an issue the people involved with economic development are well aware of.

“Population loss is among the preeminent problems that our region faces,” said Michael Hripko, with YSU’s Department of Economic Development.

It began in the ’70s and ’80s with the collapse of the steel industry and has been dropping ever since.

That problem just became even more preeminent. New census numbers show the population of the Youngstown-Warren area — Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana and Mercer counties — is now 641,000 people. It’s down .5% percent from last year and nearly 5% from 2010.

“That’s the result. That’s not causal,” Hripko said. “The causal elements are jobs, by and large. It’s jobs with livable wages for a broad spectrum of the population.”

James Dignan, president of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, isn’t surprised. But he doesn’t think we’ve bottomed out yet.

“We’ve arrested the decent, that’s kind of the term I use. Not necessarily turned the corner,” Dignan said.

Mahoning County remains the most populous in the area at 229,000. Only 368 left last year, with a 3.8% drop since 2010.

Trumbull County fell below 200,000 for the first time since the 1950 census. It’s down 1,600 from 2017 and 11,000 from 2010.

Columbiana County is around 100,000 — down 480 since last year and 5,100 since 2010.

In Mercer County, there are 110,000 people — down 860 from last year and 5.1% from 2010.

“What we’re doing at the university, we’re about workforce, we’re about skills, we’re about education so as to enable people to pursue careers in and around this area,” Hripko said.

“I think a whole generation, we lost. They left and they never came back. They never raised their families here,” Dignan said. “So now if we can think about those young millennials that were born and raised here, they would like to come back but we have to have that opportunity for them.”

In other census numbers, the Youngstown-Warren-Sharon metropolitan area dropped from the 93rd largest metro area in 2010 to 104th last year.

Franklin County, which is in the Columbus area, is the largest county in Ohio. It’s gained 146,000 people since 2010.

Also since 2010, Cuyahoga County in the Cleveland area has lost 36,000 people — or 2.8%.

At the same time, Allegheny County around Pittsburgh lost 4,800 people since 2010 — just four-tenths of its population.

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