SAN FRANCISCO—California’s population dropped by 182,083 residents during a 12-month negative growth rate period in 2020, according to new population estimates by the California Department of Finance.  

As of January 1, 2021, California’s population is 39,466,855. The state’s negative growth rate of –0.46 percent over that past year represents the first 12-month decline since state population records have been kept.  

Three principal factors have contributed to this year’s population decrease according to a press release: declines in natural increase, foreign immigration and deaths associated with COVID-19.  

“In recent years, the slowdown in natural increase, a nationwide trend affecting California more than other states, has contributed to the state’s population growth slowing and plateauing,” officials stated in a press release. “The addition of 2020’s COVID-19-related deaths, combined with immigration restrictions in the past year, tipped population change to an annual loss.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic increased California deaths by 51,000 which is 19 percent above the average death rate for three preceding years. A total of 51 of the state’s 58 counties experienced “excess death” rates above the past three-year average, according to officials in a press release.  

California is expected to slightly increase its population in 2021 when estimates can be released in May 2022.