Illinois can claim a dubious honor for the third year running: It's the state that's lost the most people for the year, the Chicago Tribune reports. US Census data published Tuesday revealed the Prairie State said goodbye to 37,508 people between July 1, 2015, and July 1, 2016, per the Chicago Sun-Times, dropping its population to 12,801,539—the lowest it's been since 2009 or so. The numbers lost by the state have increased exponentially in this most recent three-year span: In 2014, the loss was 11,961 people; in 2015, it was 28,497. And per a Simon Public Policy Institute poll in October of 1,000 registered Illinois voters, 47% of residents said they'd like to move away. "When you have a big state like Illinois … lose population for three years in a row? That's cause for alarm," a Brookings Institution demographer tells the Tribune.
So what's to account for the drop? First, there's been an exodus out of state (more than 114,000 left in 2016), mostly to warmer climes like Florida, Texas, and Arizona. But it's not just the weather that's causing defections: Michael Lucci, a VP with the conservative Illinois Policy Institute, says there are also better job opportunities elsewhere. Combine that with the overall national trend of decreasing birth numbers and more deaths, as well as a decline in the number of immigrants to Illinois specifically (especially Chicago, which has traditionally welcomed Mexican immigrants), and the influx of newbies isn't keeping up with the losses. "To reverse this trend, we need structural reforms to create more jobs, lower property taxes, improve our schools, and enact term limits to fix our broken political system," a rep for Gov. Bruce Rauner tells the Sun-Times. (Other states where people want out.)