Regional population is declining, Pattern for Progress study finds

Jonathan Drapkin: "The pipeline of internal workforce is going to be seriously diminished."

NEWBURGH – A demographic crossroads has reached the Hudson Valley, and it is expected to have implications for the future.

Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress, the research and public policy organization, has completed a year-long study for Orange, Putnam, Sullivan, Greene, Columbia and Ulster counties, and it found that a population shift would affect region’s economy for decades to come.

“There has been a significant shift since the Great Recession,” said Jonathan Drapkin, president and CEO of the Pattern for Progress,

Drapkin said there was a reduction in the K-12 population from 2000-2017, and those losses will continue to increase through the coming decade.

“The pipeline of internal workforce is going to be seriously diminished,” he said.

Orange is the only county that did not see a population decrease since 2010, and only seven of the 65 school districts studied have seen a population increase since 2000. Since then, enrollment has dropped more than 26,000 students.

As that population continues to drop, those getting older and nearing their retirement age and beyond continues to grow.

“The increases in population, 55 and older,” said Drapkin, “will be felt dramatically.”

Health care systems will be stressed to care for this population, and millennials may be part of the solution. But they also have their own issues, such as a lifetime of student debt, which could damper future economic growth as their older counterparts leave the workforce.

And there is competition to attract millennials as a driving workforce.

“We are just one of 50 states to have them here,” said Drapkin.  “We are losing some of our millennial population to other regions.”

Another solution may be immigration to drive the region’s future economy as the Trump administration continues put a lid on this type of population growth

“At a time when demographics are sifting this way,” said Drapkin, “curtailing immigration may not be the best strategy.”

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