WASHINGTON -- A record number of U.S. counties -- more than 1 in 3 -- are now dying off, hit by an aging population and weakened local economies that are spurring young adults to seek jobs elsewhere.
New 2012 census estimates highlight the population shifts as the U.S. encounters its most sluggish growth levels since the Great Depression.
The findings also reflect the increasing economic importance of foreign-born residents. Without new immigrants, many metropolitan areas such as New York, Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh and St. Louis would have posted flat or negative population growth.
Roughly 1,135 U.S. counties are now experiencing more deaths than births, what the Census Bureau calls "natural decrease." That's up from 880 in 2009. Maine has joined West Virginia as the only two states where deaths exceed births.