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Of 19 largest metro areas in U.S., only Chicago’s lost residents

The Chicago skyline | file photo

Among the 19 largest metro areas in the United States, the Chicago region was the only one that did not grow in population between 2015 and 2016, according to new figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

In fact, the Chicago region lost 19,570 residents, or .2 percent, more people lost than in any other metro area in the country, according to the data. At the other end of the scale, the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington region saw its population jump up by 143,435 people, or 2 percent, according to the data.

The Chicago region includes Naperville, Elgin and parts of northwest Indiana and southeast Wisconsin. Despite the population decrease, the region remained the nation’s third most heavily populated, behind New York and Los Angeles.

The St. Louis metro area, which includes part of Illinois, clocked in as the 20th largest such region in the country. It, too, lost residents: 1,328 in all.

“Illinois should be one of the fastest growing states. Instead, people are leaving. That is why Gov. Rauner is working so hard to pass a truly balanced budget in order to make changes that attract employers and create good jobs,” Eleni Demertzis, a spokeswoman for Rauner’s office, said in a statement.

But a spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office said the exodus is part of a regional trend.

“It’s clear from the census data that cities across the Midwest have seen a population decline over the past few years, including Chicago, which we have countered by leading the country in corporate relocations for four straight years and by driving the biggest educational gains of any urban school district in the country,” spokesman Grant Klinzman said in a statement. “But our hard work of overcoming that regional trend is made even harder when Illinois leads the nation in population loss because the governor has created instability in every corner of the state by refusing to pass or present a balanced budget for going on three years.”

In all, the nation’s 382 metro areas contained about 277.1 million people in 2016, representing roughly 86 percent of the nation’s population. This was an increase of about 2.3 million people from 2015.

Cook County remained the second-largest county in the country, behind Los Angeles County in California, the Census Bureau said. But Cook County continued to experience population loss, with 21,324 people leaving between 2015 and 2016.

In fact, Cook led all counties in population drops, with roughly 21,300 fewer residents. Trailing were Michigan’s Wayne County, where Detroit is located, with roughly 7,700 fewer residents; and Baltimore County, which lost more than 6,700 residents.

Meanwhile, Arizona’s Maricopa County had the highest annual population increase, gaining over 81,000 residents, followed by Harris County in Texas and Nevada’s Clark County.

The continuing decline in the Chicago-area population coincided with other Midwestern areas, including St. Louis and Cleveland, as the South and Southwest regions of the country saw gains. Two Texas metropolitan areas — Dallas and Houston — reported the biggest numeric increases between July 2015 and July 2016, adding more than 100,000 residents each.

Demographers said Thursday’s data suggest the reanimation of a trend that paused during the recession — of Americans on the move from the Snow Belt to the suburbs of big cities, and to the Sun Belt.

The Census Bureau’s announcement comes in the wake of the bureau reporting in December that Illinois lost more people than any other state within a 12-month period.

While eight states lost population between July 1, 2015, and July 1, 2016, Illinois lost the most, with 37,508 residents, those numbers showed. Much of that shift was due to Illinoisans moving to other states.

Census estimates are calculated by adding the population base and births, while subtracting the number of deaths and adding migration numbers.

Among the most striking estimates was that more than 114,000 Illinois residents moved to other states.

One of them was Marissa Marshall.

The Chicago native knew it was time to move away when the gunfire in the neighborhood where she could afford to live grew dangerously close.

The 29-year-old, who’s pregnant with her fifth child, moved to a St. Louis suburb about three years ago; there, she more easily found jobs and a home where she felt it was safe to send the kids outside.

“I have boys and I didn’t want to raise them in that environment,” Marshall said. “It is easier to go outside of Chicago to get help than stay in Chicago.”

Contributing: Associated Press