Population Decline Continues to Trouble Local Region

| April 22, 2019

VENANGO CO., Pa. (EYT) – While Pennsylvania has seen some increase in population in recent years, locally the numbers continue to decline.

(PHOTO: Oil City. Courtesy of Timothy Rudisille Photography.)

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, every county in the western part of Pennsylvania, excepting Butler County, has seen continuous declines in population over the last eight years.

Venango County’s population has gone from 55,320 residents in 2010 to 52,880 residents in 2017, a decline of nearly 4.5 percent.

“I would definitely consider it an issue for the county,” Venango County Commissioner Vince Witherup told ExploreVenango.com.

“But, I believe we’re probably at the bottom of the valley and heading back up the other way. It’s going to be a long, slow road to recovery to get back to where we were ten or fifteen years ago, though.”

While an end of the decline in population would be good news, it currently remains an issue in much of the local region. Clarion County saw a similar decline over the years, going from 40,290 residents in 2010 down to 38,747 residents in 2017, a decline of about 3.8 percent.

“I think it’s really an issue everywhere,” said Clarion County Commissioner Ted Tharan.

“Families are smaller. People are waiting longer to start having kids, and instead of four or five, they’re just having two. We also have an older population and every day you see three to five obituaries in the paper, but I don’t think we’re having that many births, so it’s a natural decline. We’re also having a lot of young people moving to the cities.”

Mercer County went from 117,296 residents in 2010 to 113,623 in 2017, losing 3.1 percent of their overall population, while Crawford County saw a smaller, 2.6 percent decrease, going from 89,153 in 2010 to 86,847 in 2017.

While the problem can be contributed to a combination of an aging population and migration to more urban population centers, the same decline is not seen in the more eastern reaches of the state, where continued increases in population helped the state’s overall population grow from 12,709,630 in 2010 to 12,805,537 in 2017, a 12 percent growth in the overall population.

However, with a portion of the eastern part of the state considered urban and suburban area, the difference in demographics is not surprising.

“It’s the cities that attract the younger people,” noted Tharan.

“There will always be problems down the road.

“I don’t think we’ll have enough workers in the area and we already have a shortage of people to fill jobs now. Every business seems to have out a help wanted sign.”

Nevertheless, increases in the population in urban areas may also be pushing others to consider more rural climes.

Witherup commented, “From what I’m seeing, especially in Franklin and the surrounding areas, but probably all over the county, the growth of Pittsburgh to the north has a lot of folks in their retirement years coming here, looking for a slower lifestyle and a nicer place to live. I think that has really helped the county.”

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