PORTLAND, Maine — As Maine’s population dwindled last year in 11 of 16 counties, estimates released Thursday show only two counties had more births than deaths.
The county-level estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau drill down into the state’s projected loss of 928 people last year, showing where and why federal demographers think Maine’s population continues to dwindle.
The overall drop in Maine’s population from 2014 is a blip relative to the population of about 1.3 million, but within that drop are the more local estimates that show a continuing southward shift of the state’s population center.
Kennebec, Penobscot and Aroostook counties were estimated to lose people at the fastest clips last year, because of a mix of little to no natural population growth and more departures than arrivals from elsewhere in the country or abroad.
For example, Penobscot County had a net loss of more than 1,000 residents to domestic migration, while an estimated 151 new residents arrived from abroad.
The estimates don’t reflect a door-to-door census, but annual survey projections that give a sense of the scale and direction demographers think the population is headed.
Penobscot County had the steepest total loss to domestic migration, though other less populous counties also posted relatively significant losses in that area. Aroostook County had about half the losses from domestic migration, on less than half the population.
Census figures don’t detail the reasons for migration from one part of the country to another, but as the state and national economy continue to recover, a deepening deficit of domestic migration appears a negative sign — that more people are finding reason — not necessarily economic — and confidence in their financial ability to leave.
On age, estimates show the state is getting older, in general, but the median age of populations in the state’s urban centers has declined or remained mostly flat in estimates from 2010 to 2014.
Cumberland County was the only county with an estimate of more births than deaths alongside positive domestic and international migration, resulting in an estimated gain of more than 2,000 people in 2015. That’s slightly ahead of the county’s pace of growth in 2013 and 2014.
Cumberland was joined by Androscoggin as the only counties with natural population increases, of about 400 and 230, respectively. That figure in every other county was either close to flat or negative.
Long-term, Maine’s population trend compared against neighboring New Hampshire reflects its recent stagnation. In 2015, the estimate of New Hampshire’s population topped Maine’s for the first time in 215 years, after decades of closing the gap.