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Census: Despite population growth, Chicago still at a loss

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Updated: June 24, 2013 2:04PM

Chicago gained nearly 10,000 people from July 2011 to July 2012, but was the slowest-growing major city in the country according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released Thursday.

It was the second year in a row that population grew here, but the increase so far shows no signs of making up for the loss of 200,000 people over the previous decade.

The growth here reflects a recession-driven trend of fewer people moving out of urban centers, said demographer Ken Johnson of the University of New Hampshire.

“The recession has frozen the population into place, so it can’t move,” Johnson said. “Places like Chicago or the inner suburbs which were losing so many migrants just aren’t losing them anymore at the same rate.”

Like Chicago, suburbs in Cook County also grew slightly, adding about 7,600 people in contrast to losses from 2000-2010.

And because more people are staying put, towns in formerly fast-growing Will and Kendall Counties aren’t growing as fast as they used to, Johnson said.

Among cities with more than one million people, sun-belt metropolises like Dallas, San Antonio, Phoenix, Houston and San Diego all posted gains of more than 1.3 percent, while Chicago grew by little more than one-third of 1 percent.

With a total estimated population of 2,714,856. Chicago held on to its spot as the third largest city. But the two largest cities padded their leads, with New York City adding 67,000 in 2012 and No. 2 Los Angeles gaining 34,000 people.s

“The good news for Chicago is that it is growing, but we would like to see it grow more,” said Chicago-based demographer Rob Paral of Rob Paral and Associates. Chicago’s diversified economy contributed to the growth the area did have. “We’re not dominated by one industry, we have tech, financial, shipping and manufacturing sectors,” Paral said.

Within Illinois, only two of the top 10 cities lost population: Rockford and Waukegan. However, none of the top ten cities’ population rank changed. Of towns with more than 10,000 people, Oswego in Kendall County and Country Club Hills in south suburban Cook County had the highest percentage growth, 1.8 and 1.5 percent, respectively.

Of hundreds of Chicago-area towns, only 15 actually lost any population, all less than one-third of 1 percent.

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