West Virginia leads nation in population drop

Published: Aug. 13, 2021 at 9:25 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP & WSAZ) - West Virginia’s population fell 3.2% over the past decade.

Census figures released Thursday show West Virginia lost a higher percentage of its residents than any other U.S. state.

“Our population fell by almost 60,000 people,” said Gov. Jim Justice.

It’s one of seven states to lose a congressional seat after the 2020 census.

State lawmakers now must pare three congressional districts down to two, as well as map out districts for the state Senate and House of Delegates.

“We’re working on this day in and day out and we’re going to continue to work on this population decrease because that’s a problem. That’s a real problem,” Justice said.

The figures show 47 of the state’s 55 counties lost population.

The biggest drop was in Pendleton County. The county lost 20.2% of its residents.

Kanawha remains the most populous, despite losing 6.4% of its residents.

Cabell County fell from being the third-largest county to the fourth in the state.

“If we don’t absolutely find a way to start really growing, this situation will only get worse. And by less and less people, it means less and less revenue, and as we have less and less revenue that’s going to be less situations for our schools, that’s going to be less situations for our roads,” the governor said.

Berkeley County in the Eastern Panhandle gained by far the most and is now the state’s second-largest county.

Putnam County is also on the rise with an increase of 3.5%.

For the past two decades, deaths in the state are outpacing births.

To try to stop population loss, state officials encouraged remote workers to move to West Virginia through a program that will pay them $12,000 in cash along with a year’s worth of outdoor activities.

Justice referred to something else that may have helped alleviate the population problem in the state: not being able to get rid of the state income tax. He hopes to revisit that proposal in the near future.

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