Most Alabama Cities Grow; Losses Moderate

After being hit hard with declines during the Covid-19 pandemic, Birmingham and Mobile saw an ebb in population declines, while Huntsville and cities in Baldwin County, along with Auburn-Opelika and Tuscaloosa, continued to grow at a rapid pace. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates released this month point to widespread growth in cities in the northern tier of the state, and in the Wiregrass.

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Populations in smaller towns of the Alabama Black Belt, and west and central Alabama continue to decline modestly, according to the estimates. The population also dropped in Montgomery. The capital city didn’t lose as many people as Birmingham in the first year of the pandemic but has seen steady losses over the past three years.

Montgomery’s estimated population decline of 1,657 was the largest drop among Alabama cities and compares to a decline of 695 in Mobile and 243 in Birmingham.

That allowed Birmingham to return to No. 2 in population among Alabama cities. Huntsville continues to move farther into the lead, with a population now topping 225,000.

In terms of metro area population, Birmingham is still more than twice as large, but growth there is occurring away from the central city.

Close-in suburbs Vestavia, Mountain Brook, and Homewood saw population declines, but farther from the city center, Shelby County cities like Chelsea, Pelham, and Calera saw growth.

Despite declines in Montgomery, Pike Road, Prattville, and Millbrook saw increases.

While Huntsville added the most people, adjacent Athens and not-too-distant Decatur and Florence are continuing to see population growth.

Though Mobile County cities are experiencing some population declines, it is clear that the growth in nearby Baldwin County is coming from domestic in-migration. Far more people are arriving in cities like Fairhope, Foley, Daphne, and Gulf Shores than the population declines in Mobile County would produce.

When looking at the entire country, it is plain to see that whatever population change is going on in Alabama pales in comparison to the movement in other parts of the country. New York City’s population declined by over 77,000 in 2023 according to the estimates. Meanwhile, Texas cities like Fort Worth and San Antonio passed more than 20,000 new residents apiece. Closer to home, Atlanta added over 12,000, Charlotte over 15,000, and Jacksonville, Fla, over 14,000.

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