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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The U.S. population grew just 0.1% in the year leading up to July 1, the lowest rate since the nation's founding — and a major cause is sharply decreased immigration.

Why it matters: Sluggish population growth is putting the U.S. on a pace to be an older, less productive and less dynamic country in the future.

  • Reversing declining fertility rates is challenging, but the U.S. could keep the population growing by increasing immigration — if it wants.

By the numbers: According to new data released yesterday by the Census Bureau, the U.S. population increased by just 392,665 people between July 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021.

  • For the first time ever, the increase from net international migration — the difference between the number of people who moved to the U.S. versus those who left — was a bigger contributor to population growth than a natural increase from the number of excess births over deaths.

Between the lines: The pandemic played a major role in nearly flat population growth, directly killing 475,000 people during the July to July year, indirectly contributing to more mortality by hindering access to medical care, and discouraging people from having children.

  • “We knew [COVID-19] has had a lot of economic impact, a lot of social impact; this shows it has had a big demographic impact that is going to last us for several years,” William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution, told the Washington Post.

The big picture: The pandemic won't last forever, but the general decline in fertility rates in the U.S. is a long-running trend, one mirrored around the world, that seems unlikely to change for the foreseeable future.

The catch: Even as immigration added more to population growth than natural increase, the number of people moving to the U.S. has fallen drastically in recent years, dropping from over 1 million in 2016 to just 247,000 in July 2020 to July 2021.

The bottom line: If the U.S. wants to add workers and dynamism in the future, letting in more of the people who desperately want to live here could help.

Go deeper

In photos: 2021's devastating climate disasters

Firefighters work on a wildfire in the Sequoia National Forest near Johnsondale, Calif., in September 2021. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Climate disasters in 2021 affected millions of lives, caused billions of dollars in economic loss across the world and brought into stark reality the perils of higher temperatures and climate change in general.

The big picture: Early data has ranked 2021 as the sixth warmest year on record. Climatologists have warned that increased surface temperatures make floods, droughts, heat and cold waves, wildfires and tropical storms and hurricanes more common and intense.

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker