MONTPELIER — Connecticut, Maine and Vermont were among seven states in the country to lose population in the last fiscal year, according to new statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Slow population growth, or the loss of people, is a problem across New England as the population ages, said former Maine state economist Charles Colgan, now at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California.
"In the short term, it means that we're not getting the migration into Maine and Vermont that we need to offset the declining or aging population," he said.
Last year, Connecticut had its first population loss since 2008. At the time, officials said the improving economy might partially be to blame because people postponed retirement during the last recession and now they are able to retire, often to Florida.
This year's statistics show that Connecticut lost 3,876 people, or minus 0.11 percent, last year for a total population of 3,590,886; Maine lost 928 people last year, or 0.07 percent, for a total of 1,329,328; while Vermont lost 725, or 0.12 percent, to 626,042.
Federal statistics released earlier this week show that Illinois, West Virginia, Mississippi and New Mexico were the other states to lose population. Last year, the total U.S. population grew 0.79 percent to 321.4 million.
North Dakota was the fastest growing state, adding 2.3 percent to its population to 756,927, largely driven by people in search of jobs in oil-rich western North Dakota.
The result of population loss is a low unemployment rate but stagnant economies because workers are needed to expand the economy, Colgan said. He said international immigration is needed to boost the region's population.
"If we keep restricting inward migration, it's going to do real serious damage to New England," Colgan said. "That's really the only source of growth that we're looking at. So the more federal policy clamps down on international migration the more it's going to hurt the north and in particular New England."
Colgan said Maine had more deaths than births last year. There were more births than deaths in Vermont, but more people left the state than moved in.
Before 1960, Vermont's population had remained stagnant for about a century, but from the 1970s through the 1990s, the population growth rate was about the same as that of the U.S. It wasn't until the fiscal 2012 figures released three years ago that Vermont experienced a population decline, the state's first in almost 70 years.
Slow growth has stumped Vermont policymakers for years.
The administration of Gov. Peter Shumlin has worked to entice people with college tuition reimbursement programs, home buyer down-payment assistance and funds to market the state as a place to live and work.