Is the ‘California Exodus’ Over?

Despite predictions that the party on the West Coast is winding down, California’s population increased last year for the first time since 2020.

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San Jose is finally working to fix its housing shortage, as are many California cities. This could help quell the hoards heading out of state.

San Jose is finally working to fix its housing shortage, as are many California cities. This could help quell the hoards heading out of state.

“The brief period of California’s population decline is over,” H.D. Palmer of the California Department of Finance told the Los Angeles Times on Monday. “We’re back, and we’re returning to a rate of steady, stable growth.”

Palmer was referring to recent findings that the state’s population rose last year, after declining in both 2021 and 2022. He attributed the shift to a couple of factors: Deaths are nearly at pre-COVID-19 levels, having spiked during the pandemic, and Trump-era immigration policies have been loosened. 

LA Times reporter Connor Sheets writes that the new data shows interstate migration to California is also once again trending upward, as it had for decades prior to the pandemic.

“Shifting domestic migration trends—which were the subject of the much-ballyhooed ‘California exodus’ during the pandemic, when remote workers moved to other states where they could live for a fraction of the cost of cities like Los Angeles or San Francisco—also played a key role.”

In 2021, twice as many people left California as moved here, resulting in a drop of around 300,000, and last year saw a net loss of around 150,000. Between Jan. 1, 2023, and Jan. 1, 2024, there was a net population increase of  more than 67,000 people.

The Department of Finance numbers also showed a net increase of about 116,000 housing units in 2023, which Palmer described as “encouraging.” That could bode well for the state's population in the future. As Jonathan Vankin reported here back in January, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) shows that 34 percent of California residents—more than one of every three—say they are considering an out-of-state move simply due to high housing costs.

Hybrid Work: Coming Back to Cali

In an April 8 piece based on an his early look at the data released yesterday, the LA Times' veteran columnist George Skelton spoke to state demographer Walter Schwarm, who attributed some of the shift to the end of the work-from-home era. 

Pointing out that Gov. Gavin Newsom had just announced that state employees must work at their offices at least twice a week starting in June, he reported that businesses are also requiring that employees show up in person two or three times a week—so-called hybrid work. 

“With hybrid work arrangements becoming more common in late 2022 and throughout 2023, the number of individuals moving to California once again increased to historical levels,” Schwarm said, adding: “Those individuals moving to California are on average highly educated and earning commensurately higher levels of income.”

Read California’s population increased last year for first time since 2020 on

Read California’s population is on the rise. So much for the claims of the state’s demise on

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