Estimates: Southern counties gain residents while Aroostook, Piscataquis continue population decline

Posted March 14, 2013, at 10:02 a.m.
Last modified March 14, 2013, at 7:10 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — The latest population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show that Maine’s population has remained relatively stagnant since the last decennial census.

The population estimates for 2012, released Thursday morning, show that Maine added 831 residents since the 2010 census, a meager 0.1 percent increase, for an estimated total population of 1,329,192 as of July 1, 2012.

The majority of the state’s population gains occurred in York and Cumberland counties, which added 1,874 and 2,245 residents, respectively, between 2010 and 2012. Those county gains represent 1 percent and 0.8 percent increases, respectively.

However, the rises were offset by estimated population losses in 12 of Maine’s 16 counties.

Aroostook and Piscataquis each were estimated to have lost 1.4 percent of their population between 2010 and 2012, the highest drops by percentage in the state. Washington County lost an estimated 1.2 percent of its population.

Penobscot County was estimated to have lost 0.1 percent of its population, for a total of 153,746.

The new estimates aren’t any surprise, according to Charles Colgan, a professor of public policy and management at the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service.

“They’re in line with what you’d expect,” Colgan said Thursday morning. “Maine’s population does not grow during recessions, and really hasn’t grown significantly since 2005.”

The growth in York and Cumberland counties, counterbalanced with the losses in other Maine counties, is also in line with what Colgan would expect.

“It’s all on trend and unlikely to change until the economy really shifts around, and the Maine economy shifts into higher gear — or at least out of neutral,” he said.

The estimates do have margins of error that mean the small changes reported for Maine are not completely reliable, but that doesn’t change the story, Colgan said.

“It’s just as likely that Maine’s population as a whole declined by 0.1 percent,” he said. “The only thing you could say statistically is that the changes were so small as to be not significantly different than zero, which is essentially the story anyway … the population isn’t growing.”

The U.S. Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program produces these annual population estimates, one use of which is to determine federal funding allocations.

The fastest-growing areas of the country in 2012 were around the Great Plains and western Texas, according to census estimates.

The populations of Maine’s neighbors in northern New England have also remained relatively unchanged since 2010. New Hampshire’s population is estimated to have grown 0.3 percent, to 1,320,718, between 2010 and 2012, while Vermont’s population shift was so meager the census reported a 0.0 percent change.

Massachusetts’ population is estimated to have grown 1.5 percent.

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