By Ramsey Archibald, Associated Press

ABOVE – Selma, Alabama’s iconic civil rights town, is the fastest shrinking city over 10,000 population in the state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Debra Phillips stopped by the liquidation sale at Concordia College, which closed in 2018. She graduated from high school there in 1973, and also earned an associate degree. Greg Garrison/
The historic St. James Hotel in Selma currently sits abandoned. Greg Garrison/

Two of Alabama’s most populous cities are among those losing people the fastest, according to new Census estimates.

Between 2019 and 2020, Birmingham – the biggest city in Alabama, for now – and Montgomery each lost nearly 2,000 people, just shy of 1% of their populations. The rate of decline in each city was enough to put them both near the bottom for population change among cities in Alabama with populations of at least 10,000.

 But neither Birmingham nor Montgomery were the worst off.

Selma, the historic Civil Rights town in Alabama’s Black Belt, shrank at the fastest rate among cities with at least 10,000 people, according to Vintage Population Estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. It lost more than 500 people in one year – or 3.2% of its population – from 2019 to 2020. That’s a significant chunk for a city that is now home to just under 17,000 and a continuation of a painful trend over the last decade.

Since 2010, Selma has lost nearly 20% of its total population, a decline of more than 4,000 people. Only one other City – Eufaula – lost more than 10 percent of its population between 2010 and 2020. Eufaula lost 11.5% of its population during that span.

Ozark, in Dale County in southeast Alabama, was the second fastest shrinking city in the state between 2019 and 2020. Its population shrank by 1.1% – a significant loss in one year but not close to the level seen in Selma. Fairfield, near Birmingham, also saw a decline of 1.1%.

Four cities – Anniston, Sylacauga, Alexander City and Hueytown – saw single year population declines of 1%. Five cities – including Birmingham and Montgomery – lost 0.9% of their populations between 2019 and 2020. The others were Jasper, Talladega and Center Point.

The population figures discussed here are estimates, specifically part of a program used to gauge the accuracy of the Census Bureau’s ability to make good educated guesses about population totals. To do that, these estimates will be compared to the 2020 Census – the once-a-decade head count of each person living in the United States.

2020 Census numbers will be released later this year, and some major corrections are expected in Alabama. Earlier this year the Census released state population totals – the first official batch of numbers from the count. In that count, Alabama had about 100,000 more people than expected, and it’s not clear where those extra people might be.