San Francisco inhabitants rises for first time since post-pandemic exodus—however California numbers are nonetheless dwindling

San Francisco is seeing more people return to the city after losing tens of thousands of residents since 2020, according to a new estimate from the state of California.

The city's population grew by 4,925 people to 848,019 residents in the 12 months ended June 30, according to a report released Tuesday by the state Department of Finance. Populations also increased in nearby regions, including Silicon Valley, driven by the arrival of international and domestic migrants.

The population increase is welcome news for a city that has seen an exodus of residents and retailers in recent years, plunging San Francisco into a deepening budget crisis. The population decline has been driven by high housing costs and the rise of telecommuting, allowing tech workers to flee an urban center hit hard during the pandemic while earning Silicon Valley salaries.

HD Palmer, a spokesman for the Treasury Department, called the news a “devastating blow” to critics of San Francisco who saw the city entering a so-called doom loop of fleeing residents and declining tax revenues.

International migration has been hampered in recent years by restrictive federal immigration policies, he said, but authorities have begun approving the backlog of H-1B visas that built up during the pandemic, opening the door to skilled foreign workers open for relocation to the Bay Area, Palmer said.

While population gains in the San Francisco Bay Area provided a bright spot in the Golden State, California's total population fell again by 37,203 residents in 2023, marking the fourth consecutive year of losses. The state has seen a net decline of more than 430,000 people since 2020, resulting in the loss of a congressional seat in 2021.

Several factors exacerbated by the pandemic are contributing to the state's population decline, including a higher-than-average mortality rate, a declining birth rate, a decline in international migration and more Californians moving to other states.

Still, the state's population decline slowed in the last fiscal year. And despite four years of declines, California remains the country's most populous state, with about one in eight U.S. residents calling it home.

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