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San Francisco’s population is rising again; city among fastest growing in state

A bride with cars driving over is on the left and the San Francisco byline in the background is on the right
San Francisco saw the highest number of net new migrants of any county in the state. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard

San Francisco became the poster child for a pandemic-era population drain that hit dense urban centers across the country, with the city losing some 30,000 people between 2020 and 2021.

But new data released by California’s Department of Finance on Tuesday showed that San Francisco is again attracting new residents, with the city experiencing the highest population growth from net migration among the state’s 58 counties over the last year.

San Francisco saw an increase of 4,682 net new migrants between July 2022 and July 2023, combining both domestic and international migration. Net new migrants is the number of people who moved in minus the number of people who moved out.  Overall, with births added in, the population of San Francisco increased by 4,925 to a total of 848,019.

The city’s 0.58% population growth ranked as one of the highest marks across a state generally characterized by population declines. In absolute figures, San Francisco’s number of new residents ranked No. 3 behind Alameda and Santa Clara counties, which have much larger populations and had more births than San Francisco. 

Los Angeles County, which ranks as the state’s most populous county with 9.8 million residents, saw its population fall by 15,217 people (-0.15%) over the past year. 

The Bay Area as a whole experienced population growth after the period of decline during the peak of the pandemic. But even with those gains, San Francisco's population is still below where it was before the pandemic started: The city lost 29,013 people between 2020 and 2023, according to the report.

A statewide population decline has been ongoing since 2020. Before then, California’s population actually grew every year from 1959 to 2020, according to the Institute for Economic and Policy Research at Stanford University. 

California’s population decline was especially stark at the onset of the pandemic when deaths spiked and federal legal immigration was significantly curbed. Between 2020 and 2021, the state lost 295,000 people, state officials reported. 

California’s population is still shrinking, but state officials noted the pace of population decline is slowing as pandemic shutdowns have abated and foreign immigration has recovered to pre-pandemic levels. Last year, the state lost about 37,200 people.

The population estimates reported by the state are drawn from a number of data sources including birth and death counts from public health officials, address change data and school enrollment numbers. 

Kevin V. Nguyen can be reached at