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Illinois Bicentennial Flag 12.4.17

The Illinois Bicentennial flag is raised in front of the Decatur Civic Center on Dec. 4. 

CHICAGO — Illinois is no longer the nation's fifth most populated state.

U.S. Census Bureau estimates released Wednesday show the population fell by 33,703 people between July 1, 2016 and July 1 of this year. The state now trails Pennsylvania in population by about 3,500 people, making Illinois the sixth-most-populous state in America.

Illinois was among eight states that saw a drop, and lost more people than the seven other states that decreased. The decline was a tiny fraction of Illinois' total population of just over 12.8 million.

California remains the most populated, followed by Texas. Florida comes in at number three, pushing New York down a peg to four when compared to counts from the 2010 Census. Wyoming saw the largest percentage decline.

"Domestic migration drove change in the two fastest-growing states, Idaho and Nevada, while an excess of births over deaths played a major part in the growth of the third fastest-growing state, Utah," said Luke Rogers, chief of the U.S. Census Bureau's population estimates branch.

The Illinois Policy Institute, a conservative think-tank, on Wednesday said the data reveals “the cause of Illinois’ shrinking population: heavy losses of Illinoisans to other states.”

“Since 2010, Illinois has lost nearly 643,000 people on net to other states. That’s equivalent to the population of the four largest cities outside Chicago combined: Aurora, Rockford, Joliet and Naperville,” the organization said.

The plunge marks the fourth year in a row of waning for Illinois. Adjacent Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin and Indiana reported increases.

Illinois had seen a rise in population from 2010 to 2013 but then began to slide. A 2016 poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute found that 47 percent of people surveyed wanted to move out of Illinois, with taxes being the biggest factor. Government and jobs were other reasons.

“People often don’t feel they get good value for their tax dollars and with frequent stories of public corruption or the large numbers of governmental units, it’s no wonder why they feel that way,” institute Director David Yepsen said at the time.

Population losses also have been felt locally. Census data released in March found total population of the Decatur metropolitan area was 106,550 as of July 1, 2016, a reduction of 827 from the previous year.

About 89,547 Illinois residents left for other states in 2016, the data showed. The migration, especially to nearby states, has been a reoccurring political issue as well.

GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner, who faces re-election, has campaigned on a platform that high taxes and over-regulation are major causes of the exodus. After the Wednesday numbers were released, the Democratic Governors Association issued a counterpoint press release titled “Population Loss Accelerating Under Rauner’s Failed Leadership.”

The population shifts also are closely watched nationally because they indicate possible changes in the number of congressional representatives. For example, Nebraska will probably be able to keep all three of its current U.S. House seats during the next Census in 2020, as long as the current local and national growth trends hold. Iowa lost one of its congressional seats after the 2010 census because the state didn't grow fast enough.

"We have a lot of room to spare and not all that much time remaining in the decade for population trends to change," said David Drozd, a research coordinator for the University of Nebraska's Center for Public Affairs Research.

Some estimates say Illinois is due to lose one of its 18 seats in the U.S. House after the 2020 Census. 

The other states to lose population in the Wednesday data were North Dakota, Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi and West Virginia.

Overall, the United States' population reached 325,719,178 during the latest period, up from 323,405,935. That's an increase of 0.71 percent.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

An earlier version of this story incorrectly described population totals. This version has been corrected.

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