Humboldt County ain’t getting bigger. In fact, our population is getting smaller. The county shrank by nearly 1,000 people from July 1, 2018 to July 1, 2019, according to new estimates recently released by the state’s Department of Finance. On July 1, 2018 Humboldt had a population count of 135,765 and the state’s best guess is that we shrunk by 856 over the year, to hit 134,909 on July 1, 2019.
That’s a 0.63 percent decrease, making Humboldt County third when it comes to percentage of population change, just behind Butte and Lassen counties, respectively. Butte County experienced a loss of 4.57 percent, or 10,388 people over the same period of time, probably due to the Camp Fire. Lassen County lost 2.12 percent, or 647 people. (Lassen has a total population of only around 30,000).
So, what’s been happening to Humboldt’s population?
Over the past 100 years, Humboldt’s population has grown by about 100,000 people, according to county data, and the current population has about 10,000 more people than it did in 2000.
Are more people dying than are being born here? Nope. We had 1,366 births in Humboldt over the timeframe in question and only 1,339 deaths, which is a net positive of 27. From 2010 to 2019, the total number of deaths is 11,692 and the total number of births is 13,086.
Are more people leaving? Well, it looks that way. During that one-year timeframe 883 people moved out of the county.
What was the population before and where is it projected to go?
Humboldt’s average population over the past 10 years has stayed relatively flat at 135,258. (For the nerds out there that want the median too: 135,072). And the future projections aren’t too extreme. The population is supposed to grow over the next 15 years or so and top off at 141,363 in 2035.
How old are the people here in Humboldt?
According to a 2017 American Community Survey, the largest age group in Humboldt is the 15-24 age range, with a total of 22,904 — 17 percent of the population. The 55-64 age range comes in second, with 18,981, or 14 percent of the population. The fastest-growing age range of the population in Humboldt in 2017 was the cohort between ages 65 and 74: We had 14,627 of those folks in 2017, a growth of 82 percent when compared to the year 2000. In fact, this age group is projected to keep growing here in Humboldt over the years.
“The younger age groups are expected to decrease as a percent of the total, while the older age groups are expected to increase,” the county report reads. “There has been a slight increase in the population entering the workplace, and bigger increase in the age group currently in or nearing early retirement.”
What’s happening across the state?
Statewide the population grew by 141,300 people, bringing the total number of Californians to 39.96 million. This period of growth is one of the lowest since the early 1900s.
“This represented a growth rate of 0.35 percent, which was a further decline from our last official estimate,” the state report reads. “Our previous estimates were the lowest since 1905, when [the Demographic Research Unit]’s annual population estimates begin and the trend continued.”
The slow growth in California is attributed to a number of reasons beyond just people leaving. They are having fewer babies as well.
“The natural increase (births minus deaths) was the primary source of the state’s population growth, with 452,200 births and 271,400 deaths for a natural increase of 180,800,” the report reads.
However, this birth rate — 11.3 births per 1,000 population — is down from 13.8 births per 1,000 population in 2010 and, is the “third lowest level since the beginning of our data in 1905,” according to the report.