EAST GRAND FORKS, Minn. - Like much of the rest of the state, counties in northwest Minnesota saw little to no change in its populations last year.
But some counties in the region that are not attracting new residents have seen steady losses in the last decade as younger Minnesotans leave the area for urban life, a state analyst said.
Only 26 of the state's 87 counties lost residents from July 2016 to July 2017, including Kittson, Marshall, Pennington, Polk, Lake of the Woods and Roseau counties, according to U.S. Census data released last week. But the gains and losses didn't stray much beyond 2 percent.
Roseau County lost the most people in the state last year, according to Census estimates. It had an estimated 15,327 residents, dropping 232 people or 1.5 percent, the data said.
Only Kittson County outranked Roseau County in loss by percentage. Kittson, which counted an estimated 15,327 residents, lost 68 people, or a drop of 1.6 percent, the data said.
Isanti County, which had an estimated 39,582 residents in July, saw the greatest growth rate at 2.1 percent, gaining 818 people from 2016, according to the data.
Hennepin County had the most people in the state with an estimated 1.25 million residents, according to the Census. It also saw the largest jump in population, gaining 14,997 people, according to the data. The county that encompasses much of the the west side of the Twin Cities grew by 1.2 percent.
Traverse County in west-central Minnesota had the lowest population estimate with 3,319 people, the data said. It lost three residents since 2016.
Northwest Minnesota has an "abnormally large share" of older residents, said Megan Dayton, senior projections demographer for the State Demographic Center. Younger residents from those counties also are moving to more urban areas at an increased rate, she said.
Lake of the Woods has lost 7.4 percent of its estimated population since 2010, according to the 2017 estimates. Kittson County has lost 6.6 percent of its 2010 population, which was estimated at 4,552.
"For every person born (in Kittson County), one and half people are dying," Dayton said. "For natural change, it is declining."
The fact that "homegrown residents" are leaving without attracting new residents adds to the decline, she said.
Some counties have seen steady growth - Becker County, which contains Detroit Lakes, Minn., has increased its population since 2010 by almost 5 percent. With a 2017 estimate of 14,238 residents, Pennington County has added 308 people since 2010 for a 2.2 percent increase, the Census said.
Clay County, which had an estimated population of 63,569 residents in July, has gained almost 4,600 since 2010, with a growth rate of 7.7 percent, the Census said. The county that contains Moorhead gained 711 people from July 2016 to July 2017, an uptick of 1.1 percent, the data said.
Polk County, which had a population of 31,619 residents in July, has seen its numbers fluctuate up and down in the 2010s, ranging from a low of 31,458 in 2015 to a high of 31,639. Officially, the county has had a net gain of 19 people since 2010, even though it lost 16 people from 2016.
With a population estimate of almost 5.6 million people as of July, Minnesota as a whole gained 51,556 people, or an increase of less than 1 percent, from 2016 to 2017. Growth has been steady in the 2010s - the Census reported Minnesota had about 5.3 million in 2010. Estimates indicate the state has grown by about 5 percent since 2010.