The Long Island Power Authority's latest population estimates for Nassau and Suffolk counties shows no growth over the past few years, a symptom, one expert says, of a "challenged economy" that doesn't bode well for the region.
"We are seeing very, very small -- almost no growth in residential meters," said John Little, LIPA's director of regulatory sales and pricing. "We know we're not adding customers because we're not seeing a lot of new homes," he said, "and the same is continuing for 2012."
That spells trouble for Long Island, in the view of John D. Cameron, chairman of the Long Island Regional Planning Council, an advisory panel of village and town government officials, as well as business executives and others.
"Construction is another indication of the health of economy," said Cameron, founder and managing partner of the Woodbury-based engineering firm Cameron Engineering & Associates. But he said Long Island is suffering from a lack of major construction projects, and "We don't have enough housing starts." He said LIPA's report "is just another indication of what we know . . . that we're really in a state of stasis here where there's really no growth."
LIPA's 2011 estimates for Nassau and Suffolk showed nearly across-the-board declines in populations across towns and cities from its 2010 estimates. However, Little said declines were less significant because LIPA did not have 2010 Census results when calculating its 2010 estimates, using the 2000 Census as a base instead. "So, because of that, I wouldn't put a lot of weight on the change," he said.
Still, LIPA's Jan. 1, 2011, estimates, which did incorporate 2010 Census data, counted about 13,000 fewer people than the Census Bureau's July 1, 2011, estimates. LIPA estimated Nassau's 2011 population at 1,337,556, while the bureau estimated the county's population at 1,344,436. In Suffolk, LIPA estimated 1,492,450 residents, while the Census estimated 1,498,816.
LIPA and the Census Bureau use different methods in their estimates. The bureau uses a "components of change" method that includes records on births and deaths, as well as Medicare enrollment for people 65 and older, IRS tax return data for filers and their dependents to calculate domestic migration and other data on international migration.
LIPA's population estimates make use of 2010 Census data, basing estimates about household size on it, for example. It also uses utility records of active electric meter connections, and information from large "group quarters" establishments, such as college dormitories, health facilities and jails.
The differing estimates notwithstanding, Cameron said LIPA's report showing a stagnant population is "another symptom of a challenged economy."
Cameron, a member of a state panel, New York Works Task Force, said Long Island's 8 percent unemployment rate was an impediment to population growth. "If we had low unemployment numbers, you'd have people flocking to Long Island to get jobs."
Fewer workers, Cameron said, also means "less tax revenue that our governments are going to receive. So with a shrinking tax base, it drives up the costs to all the other residents."
Seth Forman, principal planner for the regional planning council, said in an email it was too soon to predict trends based on a single year of data. He added, though, "there is little doubt at this point that the primary engine of our population growth over the last decade or two -- overseas migration from Latin America and Asia -- has slowed throughout the country." He said the national birthrate has slowed, too. "So, in order for our population to grow," he said, "we need to have more babies and more jobs."