More than half of the area's population loss came from Mahoning County.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- More than 14,000 people left the five-county Mahoning and Shenango valleys between July 1, 2000, and July 1, 2004, a 1.74 percent drop in population during that time frame.
Estimated population figures released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau show more than half of that population loss was in Mahoning County.
During those four years, 14,069 people moved out of Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties in Ohio and Mercer and Lawrence counties in Pennsylvania.
Each county saw population declines during the four-year time frame. Of that population decline, 7,320 people left Mahoning County.
The population decline is going to continue, said Thomas Finnerty, associate director of Youngstown State University's Center of Urban and Regional Studies.
"It's a continuation of the deindustrialization of the area," he said. "We keep losing jobs and downsizing. The new businesses that come here don't need as many employees as those leaving the area."
With little job opportunity, there's not much incentive for people -- particularly who are young and college-educated -- to stay here, Finnerty said.
The combination of those leaving the area coincides with more people dying in the five-county region than being born, he said.
"We're losing on just the demographics," Finnerty said.
The U.S. Census Bureau determined the 2004 population estimates primarily on building permit data, said Robert Bernstein, its spokesman. Also used was data on births and deaths.
During the four years, Mahoning County's population decreased by 2.85 percent, with Youngstown responsible for more than half of that loss.
Youngstown, the largest city in the five counties, lost 4.91 percent of its population during the four years. That is the largest percentage and raw number drops of any city in the area.
While that's not good news for Youngstown, it could be a lot worse.
Between the 1990 census and the 2000 census, Youngstown's population declined by 14.3 percent. That was the largest population percentage decline of any city in Ohio.
Mahoning County's larger communities saw modest population declines between 2000 and 2004.
But some of its smaller townships -- including Springfield, Jackson, Berlin, Beaver, Ellsworth, Green and Smith -- saw slight increases in population.
Trumbull County lost 2 percent of its population, or 4,500 people, between 2000 and 2004. Of the county's population decline, Warren made up 42.44 percent of it.
Warren saw its population decline by 1,910 people or a 3.97 percent drop in four years.
Trumbull's other main population bases of Niles, Girard, Cortland, Brookfield, Howland and Liberty saw population declines.
Like Mahoning County, the smaller rural townships in Trumbull saw slight population increases including Bloomfield, Farmington, Green, Gustavus and Mesopotamia.
Even with the declines, Mahoning is still the state's 10th most populous county, and Trumbull remains No. 12. There are 88 counties in Ohio.
Columbiana County's population decline during the four years was only 604 people. It is the state's 25th most populous county.
The county's population centers of East Liverpool, Salem and East Palestine lost people. Columbiana, Leetonia along with the townships of Elkrun and Fairfield saw small increases in population.
Mercer County's population during the four-year period dropped by 394 people.
With this census estimate, Hermitage is the county's most populated community. Hermitage added 337 people since 2000. Sharon, the city that used to be the county's most populated community, lost 621 people during the four years.
Mercer is Pennsylvania's 29th most populous county. The state has 67 counties.
Lawrence County's population decreased by 1.32 percent in the four years.
New Castle, the county's largest community, saw a 3.61 percent population decline. Smaller communities, including New Wilmington and Neshannock Township, experienced minor increases in population.