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America’s incredible shrinking cities

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The disappearing manufacturing industry in the United States is causing some U.S. cities to start disappearing, or at least to start shrinking even as the nation’s population rises. 24/7 Wall Street reports that 30 U.S. metro areas saw their population shrink at least 1% between 2010 and 2013. And it’s no coincidence that the cities that saw the sharpest decline are located in areas that once were driven by manufacturing: Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, among others.

The sharpest decline overall was in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, which saw a 4.4% decline in population between 2010 and 2013, according to 24/7 Wall Street’s analysis of U.S. Census data. That’s more than 1,000 people per year leaving the area. One reason for the exodus is almost certainly a lack of jobs. Pine Bluff’s unemployment rate was over 10% last year.

Flint, Michigan – known as one of the former hubs of U.S. auto manufacturing – also ranked as one of the fastest-shrinking cities on the list. Its population declined nearly 2.5% from 2010 to 2013. The city was the subject of the 1989 Michael Moore documentary film “Roger & Me” about then-General Motors CEO Roger Smith’s decision to close several GM plants in Flint. Flint also had an unemployment rate near 10% last year.

Mansfield, Ohio has also suffered in the wake of GM plant closings. The company was the biggest employer in the area when it closed its plant in 2009 as GM filed for bankruptcy. Mansfield’s population declined more than 2% between 2010 and 2013, according to 24/7 Wall St.

Another former industrial center seeing a declining population is Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The area was formerly a coal and steel center, but now has an unemployment rate above 8% and one of the oldest populations in the country, with a median age of 44.1. Johnstown’s population declined more than 2% between 2010 and 2013. Cambria County's population has fallen 34% since 1940.

Poll: Do you think U.S. manufacturing will ever return to its previous strength? Cast your vote and post your comments as well.