Apr 4, 2022 - News

Central Ohio population grew during pandemic, but not in Franklin Co.

Percentage change in population, by county
Data: US Census Bureau; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

It took a once-in-a-century pandemic to halt the population boom in Franklin County, if only briefly.

  • New U.S. Census data shows the county lost population between April 2020 and July 2021.

Why it matters: The latest data shows growth throughout the entire Central Ohio region outside of just the city center of Columbus.

By the numbers: Franklin County's population decreased 0.2%, or around 2,600 residents.

  • Every other neighboring county gained population during that time period.
  • The biggest gainers? Union and Delaware counties, which grew 3.5% and 3.1%, respectively.

State of play: Franklin County still recorded thousands of new residents moving in, but its year-to-year population loss came from a larger number of people moving out during the pandemic.

  • The county also recorded nearly 1,500 coronavirus deaths during that period, though it was still among the few Ohio counties that saw more births than deaths.

Yes, but: This is almost certainly a blip amid the long term growth in the region, which is still expected to reach a population of 3 million people by 2050, according to the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.

  • Franklin County hadn't seen a population decline in the last decade, Census data dating back to 2010 shows.

The big picture: Other major cities like Nashville and Chicago also saw population declines between 2020-21 as workers took advantage of work-from-home arrangements and cheaper communities.

What they're saying: Franklin County should return to a net positive of population gain this year, says Michael Wilkos, a senior vice president of the United Way of Ohio who studies population and demographic trends.

  • "This is a huge shift," he tells Axios. "But I am certain it is temporary and entirely (due) to the events of the past two years."
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