Downtown Fairbanks

Few cars were spotted crossing the Cushman Street bridge in downtown Fairbanks on Sunday, March 29, 2020. Laura Stickells/News-Miner

The state population decreased by 3,831 people, while the Fairbanks North Star Borough gained 1,064 people and grew more than any other Alaska borough, according to new population estimates released Thursday.

The estimates compare the number of people living in Alaska in July 2019 and July 2020.

The 1% gain in the number of people living in the Fairbanks borough, which was listed with a population of 97,159 as of last July, is attributed to growth at Eielson Air Force Base, according to the state demographer and others.

The state population shrunk by a half a percent, and that was blamed on fewer births and fewer people moving to Alaska.

“This was the fourth straight year of decline for the state’s population, which peaked at 740,637 in July 2016 and was 728,903 as of July 2020,” stated a news release from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, which compiled the numbers.

The 2020 Census has not been released and is not factored into the data.

The Department of Labor reports that net migration — people moving here minus people leaving — accounted for a loss of 8,873 people.

“The migration loss was driven by fewer people moving to Alaska rather than more leaving,” according to the Department of Labor. “Alaska has lost more movers than it’s gained every year since 2013.”

Fewer births have also reportedly contributed to the population decline.

Jim Dodson, president and CEO of the Fairbanks Economic Development Corp., said the increase in population in the Fairbanks area is good because it creates economic opportunity.

“It’s obviously good. Loss of population is problematic for a number of reasons. We lose school funding and other types of funding,” Dodson said.

According to population estimates from years past, the borough population was as high as 100,695 people in July 2012.

2020 was the first year that the population in the Fairbanks North Star Borough rose since 2016.

At the state level, the number of people age 64 and younger declined by 1% while the 65-and-older group grew by 4%, according to the Department of Labor.

“The state’s highest median age was 48.6 in the Haines Borough and Hoonah-Angoon Census Area. The Kusilvak Census Area was youngest at 24.3,” stated the Department of Labor news release.

Twenty-three of Alaska’s 30 boroughs lost residents between 2019 and 2020. Anchorage lost the most residents at 3,517.

After Fairbanks, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough gained the most, showing an increase of 523 people from July 2019 to last July.

Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7545. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough.

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