New census data shows that while Missouri's population rose slightly last year compared to 2017, more than 50 counties lost population.
Data released Thursday shows estimated county populations as of July 1, 2018, compared to the previous year. Missouri overall saw its population rise 0.3% to an estimated 6,126,452.
But the Census Bureau data shows that 52 of Missouri's 114 counties and the city of St. Louis lost population. Southeast Missouri in particular saw significant declines.
Pemiscot County lost 3.2% of its population, the biggest decline in the state. Dunklin County had a 2.2% decline, and Carter and Mississippi counties both lost 1.8% of their populations. Six other counties in the region saw net losses.
Pemiscot County Presiding Commissioner Mark Cartee said there simply aren't enough jobs to keep young people around once they get out of school, especially since farming has become so automated that fewer farm workers are needed.
"It's been going on in Pemiscot County for years," Cartee said of the decline. "At one time we were close to 30,000 people. Now we're at 16,000."
Turning around the decline is a tough task, Cartee said.
"We're open for suggestions," he said.
The state's biggest gainer was Lincoln County, about 60 miles north of St. Louis. The county saw a 2.8% increase in population to 57,686.
Lincoln County Economic Development Director Larry Tucker said the growth is driven by people moving further out from the St. Louis area, drawn by larger lots, cheaper land and lower property taxes.
"Some people like to live in areas with fewer neighbors," Tucker said.
The new data didn't estimate populations for most cities but St. Louis was an exception because it is in essence its own county. The city's population, on the decline for seven decades, fell another 5,028, or 1.6%, to 302,838. St. Louis had 856,796 residents in 1950.
St. Louis County's population rose by fewer than 300 people to 996,945. Jefferson County saw a 0.3 percent increase to 224,347.
St. Charles County continued to grow, though not as fast as in the past. The county's estimated population rose 1 percent to 399,182.
Jackson County saw a 0.4% rise to 700,307. Among other large counties, Greene County's population rose 0.7 percent to 291,923, and Boone County's population rose 0.8 percent to 180,005.