Capitol Alert

California population nears 40 million, up less than 1 percent

In this Thursday, May 26, 2011 file photo, a motorcyclist rides between lanes as traffic backs up on US highway 101 before the start of the Memorial Day weekend in Mill Valley, Calif.
In this Thursday, May 26, 2011 file photo, a motorcyclist rides between lanes as traffic backs up on US highway 101 before the start of the Memorial Day weekend in Mill Valley, Calif. AP

California gained 348,000 residents in 2015, bringing its population to 39.3 million, the state Department of Finance’s demographers reported Monday.

The annual growth rate, just under 1 percent, follows a recent pattern and is less than half of what it was during the state’s most recent population boom in the 1980s. It indicates that California will hit 40 million in about three years.

Three-fourths of the state’s growth is so-called “natural increase” – the difference between births and deaths.

The state produces about a half-million babies each year – almost one baby per minute – and about 250,000 Californians die each year, but the 2-1 ratio is closing as births decline and deaths edge upward.

The remainder of 2015’s population growth, about 100,000, is net migration –the difference between people moving in and moving out. While the state continues to see an inflow of immigrants from other countries, legal and illegal, it loses more people to other states than it gains.

Los Angeles, the state’s largest city by far, also saw the state’s biggest numerical gain, 50,000, during 2015, but at 1.3 percent it was far from being its fastest growing city.

The fastest growing city over 30,000 in population goes to Porterville, in Tulare County, which saw a 5.3 percent gain last year. But 80 miles due west from Porterville, Avenal had the state’s largest percentage decline, down 5 percent, due to inmate reductions in the town’s large state prison.

Vernon, an industrial city near downtown Los Angeles, saw the fastest gain of any city, 72.1 percent. Vernon had almost no residents except city employees and their families for decades, but scandal drove it to change policies and it has undertaken some housing development.

Finally, San Joaquin was the state’s fastest growing county last year at more than 1.3 percent, followed by Yolo, Riverside and Santa Clara, all slightly under 1.3 percent.

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