PEORIA -- Residents are leaving Peoria at a faster rate than any other large city in the state, according to an analysis of recently released population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The agency estimated the city's population at 112,883 people as of July 1, 2017, a decline of 1.3 percent from 2016 and a 1.9 percent decrease from the last full census in April 2010.
From 2010 to 2016, the Census Bureau estimated Peoria's population decline at 0.7 percent, indicating that the rate at which people are leaving the city also increased last year.
"Peoria's population declined by 1.3 percent in 2017, and it's mostly not because of deaths exceeding births -- it's mostly because of an outmigration problem," said Orphe Divounguy, an economist with the Illinois Policy Institute who analyzed the census data in conjunction with data from other sources such as the Internal Revenue Service and American Communities Survey.
Peoria's population decline was the largest among the 50 most populous cities in Illinois, according to the Illinois Policy Institute analysis.
The population loss coincided with a major restructuring that cut more than 16,000 positions at Caterpillar Inc., one of Peoria's top employers. Job losses related to the restructuring occurred at Cat facilities around the world, and the company has never publicly confirmed how many local positions were affected. Caterpillar continues to employ more than 12,000 people in the Peoria area.
"It's not just retirees who are leaving, it's the workforce that is leaving," Divounguy said. "Caterpillar is only part of the story -- there's a much bigger issue of people leaving other cities all over Illinois."
Tazewell County also experienced a population loss of 1.4 percent between 2010 and 2017, becoming the 15th most populous county in the state at 133,526 people last year.
Woodford County posted a slight gain of 0.2 percent in the seven years since the last full census, adding 62 residents for a total population of 38,726 and a ranking of 38th in the state.
Peoria County's population change mirrored the city's decline, with a total population of 183,011 residents in 2017 making it the 12th most populous county in Illinois.
The state overall lost 0.2 percent of its population from 2010 to 2017 for an estimated total population of 12,802,539 people last year.
Cities that gained population from 2016 to 2017 mostly included Chicago suburbs and downstate cities with sizable college communities, such as Champaign and Normal.
New unemployment figures for Illinois were released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Illinois Department of Employment Security.
According to the preliminary data, unemployment rates declined in all Illinois metro areas last month. Statewide, the not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped from 4.5 percent in April 2017 to 3.6 percent last month.
In the Peoria Metropolitan Statistical Area, the rate decreased to 4.1 percent in April from 5 percent in April 2017. There were an estimated 7,300 unemployed people in the labor force in April 2018, according to the report.
The number of nonfarm jobs in the Peoria MSA, however, dropped from 172,900 in April 2017 to 172,400 last month, according to the report.
The Peoria MSA covers Peoria, Marshall, Stark, Tazewell and Woodford counties.