Is pandemic exodus over? SF population slightly increasing, Census Bureau numbers show

ByLindsey Feingold and Suzanne Phan KGO logo
Friday, March 15, 2024
Is pandemic exodus over?: Here's a look at SF population, data
New census numbers show people are coming back to San Francisco. The exodus, in the wake of the pandemic, is over.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- New census numbers show people are coming back to San Francisco for the first time since 2019.

"I think the pandemic really changed a lot of people's lives. I'm glad they're coming back. It's wonderful," said Mark Palmer, a San Francisco resident.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, San Francisco's population increased between July 2022 and 2023 by about 1,200. The city population went from 807,774 to just under 809,000. That's an increase of 0.15%.

"I'm a little surprised at the number," said Linda Jensen.

Graph not displaying correctly? Click here to open in a new window.

MORE: California Dreaming: Moving to Texas

The rebound, following a drop in 2021 of over 50,000 people, is shown in the light blue line in the graphic above.

"As a chef, a lot of my friends have left," said Danny Murcia, a San Francisco resident. "A lot of restaurants we grew up with are a thing of the past."

Statewide, California lost more than 75,000 people from 2022 to 2023 -- a 0.2% decline.

"But things are starting to turn around," said Murcia. "I just started getting the phone calls asking if I knew of anyone with jobs available in our industry again, which is huge for us."

MORE: Census Bureau: SF metro area sees mass exodus during pandemic; more consider leaving

New U.S. Census Bureau Data shows 7.6% of San Francisco metropolitan area residents surveyed considered moving to a different city in the next year.

"We spent a lot of time in Tahoe. A lot of people went to Tahoe. They weren't prepared for year round life in Tahoe. I'm not surprised people want to come back," said Jensen.

The pandemic allowed people to work remotely and in places that were a lot less expensive. But Eric McGee, policy director at the Public Policy Institute of California, said that's now changing.

"Now employees are being a little bit fussier in some cases about people showing up in person just a few days a week and I think that's drawing people back to CA because of the dynamic and the high paying jobs, especially in the bay area, are still here," McGee said.

The Bay Area is also seeing a resurgence.

"The Bay Area in general, not just San Francisco, has seen something of a turnaround. We have some new dynamic industries like A.I. that are drawing people back to the state," McGee said.

MORE: Bay Area exodus: Where is everyone going and why?

New data from the United States Postal Service shows people are moving out of the Bay Area to less restrictive parts of the state amid the ongoing pandemic.

Kevin Ho, a real estate broker in San Francisco with Vanguard Properties, said things have definitely improved.

"We have a lot of sellers who previously would have left the city. Now they are upgrading and staying in the city -- buying bigger and better homes," said Ho. "We have clients who are locating, relocating back to the Bay Area. We had a couple who just closed on an iconic property who are moving here from Miami."

MORE: How can SF build more homes in one of most densest US cities after affordable housing bond passed?

How can San Francisco build more affordable homes after a recent bond passed by voters? Officials offer insight including on the challenges.

Experts say San Francisco still has a long way to go to get back to where it was.

"San Francisco is not all the way back, but it's in recovery mode," said McGhee. "We'll just have to wait and see if this trend can continue. There are policy challenges that remain, especially around building enough housing. But, things are heading in the right direction again.

Meanwhile, Ho said seeing big crowds during Open House on Sundays. He said listings are selling in less than a week.

We are seeing people pack in there, who want to buy, who want to stay," said Ho.

Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live