A Tale of Large Cities: Population and Jobs - May 2000
By Joseph Slepski, Research Analyst
There seems to be a general perception that the largest cities in Connecticut have steadily declined in both population and jobs during the latter part of the past century. This article will attempt to explore this premise by looking at both population figures and the number of jobs located in the cities of Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, Stamford and Waterbury. The points of time examined are, for population: 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990 and 1998*; and for jobs, the same years, except 1963 is used instead of 1960 because that is the earliest year for which city and town job estimates are available. One limitation of using data that spans wide intervals of time is that high and low points may not be precisely captured; however, the general trends are quite apparent in the data examined.
In the city of Bridgeport, population stood at 156,700 in 1960, remained stable through the next decade, dropped sharply until 1980, and has declined moderately since. These numbers indicate that, from its high point in 1960, population in the city of Bridgeport declined by 12.3 percent. In terms of jobs located in the city, the total in 1963 was 78,600, peaked in 1970 and has been on a gradual decline in the 28 years since. From its high point of 84,700 in 1970, employment in the city of Bridgeport has declined by 42.1 percent. The following graph charts movement in Bridgeport’s population and jobs.
Population and Job Growth
___ Population --- Jobs
What has happened to the city of Hartford during those years? In 1960, population in Connecticut’s capital city was 162,200. Like Bridgeport, Hartford’s largest decline was in the decade between 1970 and 1980; but the city also experienced a slight expansion in population in the eighties. By 1998 the city had experienced more losses, to 131,500. Jobs in Hartford grew from 1963 through 1990 when they reached 151,400, but subsequently declined to 120,600 in 1998. The graph on the front page shows that the jobs did not begin to leave the city until the decade of the nineties and still remained at about the 1963 level in 1998. (A separate article on Hartford is featured on page four.)
The city of New Haven, like Hartford, experienced its high point in population in the sixties, saw population declines in the decades between 1960 and 1980, rebounded in the eighties and suffered losses during the nineties. Regarding jobs, 1963 saw a total of 86,900 jobs in the city. Jobs in New Haven reached a pinnacle in 1970, declined in the seventies, recovered somewhat during the eighties before suffering during the recession of the early nineties.
Unlike Connecticut’s other major cities, Stamford has experienced a steady growth in population, outside of a decline in the seventies, and most recently was at an all-time high of 110,700. As far as jobs go, in 1963 the total was 42,100; that total nearly doubled by 1998 when Stamford firms employed 80,400. It appears that the city of Stamford was the least hard hit of all the large cities by the economic downturns of the past thirty-plus years as employment has steadily increased during that period of time.
In the city of Waterbury, population in 1960 was 107,100 and by 1980 it had fallen to 103,300. In 1990, a reversal occurred as population rose to 109,000. However, by 1998 it had dropped again to 105,300. Jobs in Waterbury rose steadily throughout the sixties and seventies before declining somewhat during the eighties and nineties. Despite the economic hardships that have occurred in the last twenty years, employment in the city of Waterbury, at 44,100 in 1998, was higher than it was back in the sixties.
These numbers show that each major city in Connecticut has had a different experience in the past four decades. With the exception of Stamford, each of the other major cities has suffered periods of job loss during that time. In the final analysis, however, only Bridgeport and New Haven have significantly fewer jobs today than they had in the early 1960s. In contrast, the gains within the Stamford city limits nearly equal the combined losses in Bridgeport and New Haven. Hartford and Waterbury have roughly the same number of jobs as they did four decades ago.
In terms of population, Stamford again was the only big gainer when comparing 1960 to 1998, having added 18,000 residents. However, almost all of that occurred in the 1960s; there has not been much change in its population since 1970. In Waterbury, like in its number of jobs, there was little change in its population over the entire period. The State’s three most populous cities, Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven, actually experienced large declines in numbers of residents between 1960 and 1998. This could be attributed, at least in part, to the trend over that period of people moving from the cities to the suburbs. More open space, better roadways and the increased use of the automobile were partly responsible for this. It is for these same reasons that many businesses also followed suit and built new facilities in the suburban towns that became easily accessible to its workers. Obviously, with trends like these, raising revenues to run a city can be a significant challenge.
While Stamford is considered a major city by many in Connecticut, some in mid-town Manhattan consider Stamford to have a smaller-town attractiveness. It’s the place to be.
*Data source 1960-1990: U.S. Census Bureau; 1998: Connecticut Department of Public Health.