Calif.’s population continues shrinking, with one exception: the Valley.

While the Golden State continues to weather an exodus of its people, the Central Valley is the lone refuge of population growth, new data shows.

California’s population continued to shrink into 2023, with an unofficial estimate of the state’s population pegged at 38.9 million people, the state’s Department of Finance announced.

The decline has accelerated in the state’s urban population hubs in the Bay Area and Southern California. The lone bright spot of population growth? The Central Valley.


The big picture: California’s population decreased by 0.3 percent from 39.1 million at the start of 2022 to an estimated 38.9 million at the start of 2023.

  • The decline in population has slowed down in the last six months of 2022 due to factors such as reduced immigration, deaths from COVID, and remote work exodus.
  • Sacramento, Fresno, and Bakersfield were the only cities that grew, with Sacramento seeing the largest increase at 0.2 percent.
  • Most California counties lost population, with Lassen, Del Norte, and Plumas experiencing the biggest losses by percentage.

Steep hits in the population hubs: In the Bay Area, Santa Cruz, Marin, and Napa shrank by about 1 percent, while Alameda, Solano, and Sonoma lost 0.5 percent, and San Mateo and Contra Costa shrank 0.4 percent.

  • San Francisco saw a 0.6 percent decline in population in 2022, which is less than the previous year’s decline of 0.8 percent.
  • Meanwhile, Los Angeles shrank by 0.75 percent and Orange County shrank by 0.5 percent. San Diego County, meanwhile, saw the softest decline with only 0.2 percent population shrinkage from the year prior.
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