U.S. births in 2008 dropped nearly 2 percent from 2007 - the first annual decline in births since the beginning of the decade, according to new federal data.
It's not clear what caused the decline, but the nation's economic downturn may have had something to do with it.
Since the recession began in December 2007, the economy has lost almost 7 million jobs. Housing foreclosures worsened in 2007 too, and fell into a state of crisis in 2008.
The largest decline in births in 2008 were in California and Florida, two states hit hardest by the housing crisis.
But the downturn's effect on the public psychology - and families' willingness to have babies - may not have really hit until the fall of 2008, said Stephanie Ventura of the National Center for Health Statistics, the agency that put out the report.
The nation had about 4,247,000 births in 2008, down about 68,000 from the year before.
Of course, 2007 was a year in which more babies were born in the United States than any other year in the nation's history. In the past, a fluctuation of births by 1 or 2 percent would not be seen as very significant, especially from such an unusual year.
But the drop seems to break an unusual trend. Births had been rising since 2002, and birth rates had been increasing in women of different age groups, said Ventura, chief of the agency's reproductive statistics branch.
The new report is an early count of births from each state, and does not contain demographic breakdowns that might more completely explain whether birth declines occurred in some groups, but not others.
A month-by-month breakdown indicates births were up in January, February and April of 2008 compared to 2007, but were down every month after that except September. The largest declines were in October and November.
Births were down in all but 10 states. The number of births was on the rise mostly in the northwest quadrant of the country, including North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington and Alaska.
In contrast, births in California were down by 15,000 and in Florida, by 8,000, compared to 2007.