Census numbers fall sharply here

Venango, Clarion and Forest counties have all shown significant population declines over the past decade, according to the latest U.S. Census numbers.

The census figures from 2020 that were released last week show that all three counties are in the top 10 in the state in percentage decline. Forest County is third, Venango County is fifth, and Clarion County is tenth.

Other counties in northwest Pennsylvania, including Warren, are also showing sharp declines, according to the data available on the U.S. Census Bureau website.

The Forest County population in 2010 was 7,716, and now it’s at 6,973 for a 9.6 percent drop.

Venango County’s population fell 8.2 percent from 54,984 in 2010 to 50,454 in 2020.

And Clarion County’s numbers dropped from 39,988 in 2010 to 37,241 in 2020, a decline of about 6.9 percent.

Susquehanna County, with an 11.4 percent population decrease, and Cameron County, at 10.6 percent, have the sharpest declines in the state. Sullivan County is fourth at 9.1 percent.

Wyoming County comes in sixth, with 7.8 percent, followed by Warren at 7.7 percent. Just above Clarion County at eight and nine are Greene and Cambria counties, which both lost around 7.1 percent of their populations.

Cumberland, Lebanon and Lehigh counties, all within the southern portion of the state, saw the largest increase in population with growth of 10.2 percent, 7.3 percent and 7.2 percent respectively.

The Census Bureau said in a press release earlier this month that people nationally are moving into more metropolitan areas and away from rural spaces. United States metro areas had an overall growth rate of 9 percent.

Since 2010, the percentage of the U.S. population living in metropolitan areas has risen two percentage points – from 84 percent in 2010 to 86 percent in 2020.

But, the decline in rural counties like Clarion, Forest and Venango is on-trend as well, said Mark Perry, one of the U.S. Census Bureau’s senior demographer. “Our nation is growing slower than it used to,” according to annual population estimates, and “this decline is evident at the local level, where around 52 percent” of counties nationally saw population decreases, he added.

State and county-level census results are expected to become available around the end of October, according to the Census Bureau’s website.