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California sees population growth for first time since 2020

Riverside County sees uptick in population
Riverside County sees uptick in population 02:06

California's population grew for the first time since 2020 with some notable gains in Southern California, according to data recently released by the state's Department of Finance.

Among the biggest driving forces behind the upward climb are a lower overall mortality rate — with deaths returning to long-term trends following a decline from the pandemic peak — and a "rebound" in legal immigration into the state as record-keeping backlogs are mostly eliminated, according to the state's newest demographic report released April 30. The report describes such conditions as a "stable foundation" for a continuing rise in the number of people living in the state.

"California is likely to experience slower but positive growth for the near future," the report reads.

While Los Angeles saw its population inch up by less than 0.1%, the city saw the building of more additional housing units than any other city statewide with just over 20,000 more than last year. LA also built the most additional multi-family housing units with another 14,000 compared to last year.

Among the ten counties with more than 1 million people, nine saw population increases between 2023 and 2024 that made up 72% of the entire state's population. Of those counties, Riverside led the way with the largest increase of about 13,800. That marks an uptick of 0.6% — double the percent of growth seen in Los Angeles County during the same period.

The highest rate of growth among all all counties was in Sutter County, which is just north of Sacramento County and recorded a 1.9% rise. The second-highest was 1.8% in Imperial County and 1.4% in Northern California's Glenn County.

Cities with the biggest growth 

When looking at the state's 10 largest cities, Bakersfield saw the highest percent of population growth. Its population rose by 0.8% between 2023 and 2024 — for an estimated 411,109 people as of Jan. 1, 2024.

Meanwhile, the second highest increase among those cities recorded was Fresno with 0.7% followed by the city of Los Angeles, which saw a 0.3% rise since January 2023, according to the Department of Finance report.

Of all cities statewide, the tiny Northern California city of Paradise saw the biggest spike in growth, with a rise of 16.1% from 2023 to 2024. That marks an increase of just under 1,500 more people — up to 10,691 as of Jan. 1, 2024. The second-highest rate of growth was 5.4% in Lathrop, just south of Stockton, and 5% in the Bay Area's Emeryville.

The rate of growth is so high in the small town of Paradise because it was devastated by one of the worst wildfires in California history. In 2018, the Camp Fire left 85 people dead and forced the evacuation of more than 50,000. The city has been slowly recovering and rebuilding since then as its population made a stark drop from 26,218 to just 4,764 immediately following the wildfire, according to the Chico-Enterprise Record.

SoCal: LA County and beyond

LA County's population inched up just slightly by less than 0.1% — an increase of fewer than 5,000 people from an estimated population of 9,819,312 as of January 2023 up to 9,824,091 in 2024. 

When looking at individual cities, those within the county's northeastern region saw the highest rates of growth. Duarte had by far the biggest spike of 3% followed by neighboring Monrovia with 1.4% and Pasadena with 1.1%. 

The city in LA County that saw the biggest decline was Bradbury, which actually borders Duarte and Monrovia. It recorded a 0.8% decrease between 2023 and 2024 followed by Avalon and Lawndale, which both saw a decline of 0.6%. Fourteen cities in the county each recorded a decrease of 0.5% including Carson, Cerritos, Manhattan Beach and Beverly Hills.

As for the rest of the Southern California region, Riverside County led the way with a 0.6% increase in population from 2023 to 2024. It was followed by San Bernardino County with a rise of 0.4% and then Orange and Santa Barbara counties, both of which recorded increases of 0.3%. San Diego County's population remained relatively stagnant, adding just another nearly 700 more people to inch up by less than 0.1%. Meanwhile, Ventura County saw the only decline in SoCal — a dip of 0.3%.

Among those counties, the city with the biggest jump in population growth was Stanton in Orange County, recording a 3.6% increase. The city with the biggest decline was Ventura County's Port Hueneme, which recorded a decrease of 0.8%.

The building of new housing is described in the state report as one of the most significant drivers of population growth. 

When ranking by net housing gains — or the number of new units when accounting for any lost — the city of Los Angeles added the most new housing units with 21,698 more than last year. That's far more than any other city by a long shot as San Diego came second with just 5,720 more units followed by unincorporated Riverside County with 2,458, San Francisco with 2,277 and Oakland with 1,972 more units.

Los Angeles also led the way in the building of the most additional multi-family housing units: 14,207 more units which comprised 65.5 percent of the city's overall net housing growth. While most of this housing was built in larger, more densely populated urban areas such as LA, the number of single-family housing units rose considerably elsewhere.

"Conversely, single family housing is more likely to be built further inland in typically more suburban cities," the report reads, listing cities such as Bakersfield, Fresno, Roseville and Menifee as cities where most of these units are being built. 


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