Illinois is losing population to warmer climates, but it's not the bouts of sub-zero weather that are driving people out of the state.

According to new census data and other figures, between July 2013 and July 2014, the state shrunk by 10,000 residents. This should be cause for alarm; other states in decline included West Virginia, Connecticut and Alaska.

While the weather in Illinois this time of year isn't necessarily inviting, people follow jobs.

William Frey of the Brookings Institute told the Chicago Tribune that the state's loss of population jumped out at him during his analysis of population trends.

"The faucet is starting to turn up in terms of moving to the Sun Belt," Frey told the Tribune. "Obviously, states in the Northeast and Midwest, like Illinois, are going to be part of that surge." But still "I was quite surprised by the Illinois out-migration and that there is negative growth."

While the state has lost jobs over the last decade, this is the first year that the state has lost actual population since 1987-1988. A lot of figures go into the population loss: people moving, deaths, births and immigration from other countries.

The biggest reason the state is losing population is a greater number of people moving to other states. In state-to-state migration last year, the state had a net loss of almost 95,000 people, the highest rate in decades. That sort of loss has a devastating impact on tax revenue for state government and local governments.

According to the Illinois Policy Institute, the three states that attract the most former Illinois residents are Texas, Florida and California. Each of these states has warmer weather, but also a warmer job climate.

In fact, before the weather is used as as an excuse, consider that the fastest-growing state in the nation is North Dakota. It's not nice to make fun of other states, so let's just say that few people are moving to North Dakota for weather.

The woes of Illinois are well-documented. The state's budget is in a shambles, the credit rating is the worst in the nation and an income tax rate increase imposed in 2011 (which ended in January) turned out to be a jobs killer.

There is a new sense of optimism in the state, however, primarily associated with Bruce Rauner taking over the governor's office last week. But the loss of net population should also send a warning signal throughout the state.

It's a clear symbol of a state in decline and that trend needs to be reversed as quickly as possible.


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