HONOLULU (KHON2) — More than 73% of U.S. counties saw a natural decrease last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s report released on Thursday.

Natural decrease means there are more deaths than births over a given period of time, which was intensified last year by the COVID-19 pandemic. Fewer births, an aging population and increased mortality contributed to a rise in natural decrease in 2021.

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Hawaii’s population declined by 10,358 residents from July 1, 2020, to July 1, 2021.

According to the latest Census Bureau data, Oahu’s population declined by 12,337 over a 12-month period, and Maui County declined by 434 residents.

However, two counties saw an increase in population: Hawaii County grew by 2,160 residents, and Kauai County grew by 253 residents.

The U.S. Census Bureau added that more than half of the nation’s counties saw positive domestic migration overall from 2020 to 2021. Arizona’s Maricopa County gained the most with 46,866 residents.

“Even though over time we’ve seen a higher number of counties with natural decrease and net international migration continuing to decline, in the past year, the contribution of domestic migration counteracted these trends so there were actually more counties growing than losing population,” said Dr. Christine Hartley, assistant division chief for estimates and projections in the Census Bureau’s Population Division.

Of the 384 metro areas in the 50 states and District of Columbia, more than half experienced natural decrease in 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Highlights for counties’ growth and decline:

  • Five of the top 10 largest-gaining counties in 2021, were in Texas. Collin, Fort Bend, Williamson, Denton and Montgomery counties gained a combined 145,663 residents.
  • Los Angeles County, California experienced the largest population loss of any county, losing 159,621 residents in 2021.
  • Seventy-one percent of counties (2,218) experienced positive net international migration. 
  • Four counties crossed the threshold of 100,000 residents in 2021—Cleveland County, North Carolina (100,359), Lancaster County, South Carolina (100,336), Bastrop County, Texas (102,058), and Grant County, Washington (100,297).
  • Los Angeles County, California (9,829,544) and Cook County, Illinois (5,173,146), had more than 5 million residents in 2021, making them the top two most populous counties in the nation.

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