PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP/WPRI) -- U.S. Census Bureau estimates show that Rhode Island's population has declined by 24,000 people since 2004, an unprecedented loss of state residents.
According to our news partners at The Providence Journal, the population drop easily tops the decrease of nearly 2,600 residents between the censuses of 1970 and 1980, the only decade that Rhode Island's population has declined from one census to the next. The 1980 census captured a population loss after the U.S. Navy all but left Narragansett Bay in 1974.
WPRI.com Reporter Ted Nesi first reported the population loss last month, and pointed out that Rhode Island was only one of two states in the entire country to lose population. Vermont was the other state.
North Dakota saw the highest increase, amid a booming job market due to growth in its fossil-fuel sector.
Nesi also pointed out that Census Bureau information showed Rhode Island was the slowest growing state in New England, and the second-slowest in the country.
Rhode Island has just over 1 million residents. Economists argue the driving force behind Rhode Island's population loss is a weak economy, with too few jobs for residents, though a lack of affordable housing and the level of taxation may also play a role.
"The problem is you have a bad economy, and because you have a bad economy people are leaving," economist Dean Baker told WPRI.com . "But the problem is not that people are leaving; the problem is the bad economy."
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.