- Associated Press - Thursday, May 19, 2016

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia no longer has a city above 50,000 in population.

U.S. Census estimates released Thursday show Charleston dipped below 50,000 last year. The state’s largest city had an estimated population of 49,736, down 590 residents from the year before.

It marks the first time that Charleston was below 50,000 population since the 1920 Census, when it was 39,608. The city’s population shot up to more than 60,000 in 1930.

According to the Census estimates, West Virginia has lost about 10,000 residents since 2010 and 4,623 residents between 2014 and 2015 alone. The state has 1.84 million residents.

“I don’t think there’s any question the entire state is losing population,” said Charleston Mayor Danny Jones. “There’s no way Charleston’s not going to be affected by that.”

He said he’ll wait for official Census figures on the city’s population rather than rely on estimates.

While a drop of less than 1,000 residents may not seem much, officials want to avoid losing more of their tax base. Like many municipalities, Charleston imposes a 1 percent sales and use tax for purchases made on taxable goods and services.

“There’s really not much I can do about what’s happening in the interim, except to try to keep Charleston fluid and financially stable, and we’ve done all of that,” Jones said.

The exodus from Charleston also was felt in surrounding cities such as Dunbar, St. Albans and South Charleston, which also saw drops in estimated population.

Huntington, which dipped below 50,000 residents a decade ago, remains West Virginia’s second-largest city at 48,638. Parkersburg was third at 30,991 and Morgantown was fourth at 30,708.

Rounding out the top 10 were Wheeling (27,648), Weirton (19,175), Fairmont (18,733), Martinsburg (17,700), Beckley (17,056) and Clarksburg (16,152).

Morgantown is the only city in the top 10 that grew in population over the past year.

The Eastern Panhandle have seen a growing population due to an influx of commuters to Washington, D.C. Charles Town had an 3 percent increase to an estimated 5,899 residents, while Ranson’s population increased 2 percent to 4,941.

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