Metro

Experts say Vt. population loss challenge to growth

MONTPELIER — Vermont’s population decreased last year for the first time in nearly three-quarters of a century, according to US Census figures, with more people leaving the state than moving in. The exodus is part of a broader trend that has flattened the state’s growth rate for years.

While the fiscal 2012 population decline of 581 people was small, it was the first time since 1944 that Vermont lost population, economist Art Woolf said.

Vermont, with a total population estimated at 626,592, still has more births than deaths.

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But those changes could not offset the 1,726 people who left the state in the year that ended June 30, the statistics show.

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The population decline is a challenge for the state’s efforts to create good-paying jobs.

‘‘We knew this was coming,’’ said Vermont Commerce Secretary Lawrence Miller, who first noticed the trend when the number of students began to decline several years ago. ‘‘When you just looked at what was happening in the schools, clearly we were going to hit that point.’’

‘‘We need to recognize Vermont is not a very attractive place for people to move to,’’ Woolf said. “I think that, first and foremost, is what people need to come to grips with. Most people think Vermont is such a wonderful place.’’

Woolf said the population decline means that businesses will have a harder time finding employees. Also, because the state has an aging population, the tax base will not be growing. And, it is young people who tend to create businesses.