Population Off Sharply in St. Louis and Birmingham

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ST. LOUIS — They call this the Gateway to the West, but for the past six decades that gateway has more resembled an exit, as this city, once the nation’s fourth largest, has lost roughly half a million people.

Though recent estimates had given city officials reason to believe the downward trend had finally stalled, those hopes were dashed Thursday when the Census Bureau released new data showing that the city’s population had shrunk by 29,000 over the last decade — an 8.3 percent decline that brings the population to 319,000, its lowest level since 1870.

Census figures report a similar decline in Birmingham, Ala., which hemorrhaged 30,000 people since 2000, a loss of nearly 13 percent. The losses in St. Louis and Birmingham — as measured as a percentage of the population — are outstripped only by that in New Orleans, which had a 29 percent decline caused in part by Hurricane Katrina....

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