U.S. Population Is Growing at Slowest Pace Since World War II

America’s population is growing at the slowest rate since World War II, threatening to undermine demand and investment in the economy, according to a new blog post from the St. Louis Federal Reserve.

The population increased 0.35% in the first half of 2020, based on preliminary estimates by the Census Bureau, slowing for a fifth consecutive year. In California, the largest state in the nation, growth has essentially stagnated while in many large cities it has reversed.

The data suggests that the population is on track to expand much more slowly than the Census Bureau envisaged in 2017, the last time it published long-term projections. Thta means a smaller labor force and less demand for business equipment, housing and other capital goods, according to William Emmons, an economist at the St. Louis Fed. The decline in investment demand may help to keep interest rates low, he wrote.

Birth and death rates along with immigration all impact population growth. U.S. births reached a peak of about 4.32 million in 2007, then declined to 3.75 million by 2019.

Some analysts predict the coronavirus recession will depress births even further, possibly by as much as half a million. In 2021, rates will likely be “shockingly low,” Philip Cohen, sociologist at the University of Maryland, said in a blog post.