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Editor’s corner: Numbers offer an objective view

Within the next month, U.S. Census officials are expected to release the data collected from 2020. Recent numbers, however, do not offer a positive indication for what is to come for northwestern Pennsylvania.

Those statistics find this region is lagging behind state averages when it comes to new residents. In fact, no matter how many natural gems and resources there are in the region, population estimates here have been in decline for years.

Just how bad is it? That’s a matter of perspective.

The neighboring county to lose the least was Erie. Since 2010, its population has lost 11,000 residents– or 3.9% — and stands at 269,728. Crawford County, which is more than double the size of Warren County, has lost 4,100 residents and is at 84,629.

Other rural counties, including ours, have seen losses of around 6% with Forest at a population of 7,247; McKean at 40,625; and Warren at 39,191.

Overall, the Commonwealth has seen small growth — which is better than the alternative. Figures show state population gaining about 100,000 residents at 12.8 million.

Estimates note 99.9% took part in the Census survey that is done every 10 years and has significant implications on every aspect of our lives. “Your outreach helped ensure we counted our rural households and residents experiencing economic hardship or homelessness,” notes the state’s U.S. Census page. “Counting everyone was critical, as our population count determines the federal support Pennsylvanians receive for the next 10 years for health care, education, housing, food security, roads, and more.”

One of the disappointing trends in the five-county region are the rates of poverty. Here, the number is a bit higher that the state’s number of 12% at 13.5%. Both Erie at 16.6% and Forest at 26% are struggling much more than Warren.

Those figures, unfortunately, could increase due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When local economies, especially small business and restaurants are at a standstill due to government-forced shutdowns, there will be pain associated with those decisions.

How it affects the next set of numbers will be known soon enough.

John D’Agostino is the editor of the Times Observer, The Post-Journal and the OBSERVER in Dunkirk. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call (716) 487-1111, ext. 253.

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