Sonoma County's population inched up in 2011 while the number of people in Lake and Mendocino counties continued a slow decline.
The lack of meaningful growth was mirrored in statewide figures released Tuesday by the Department of Finance showing California's population rose by less than 1 percent to just under 37.7 million people.
Economists said in most cases it's a sign people are staying put as they ride out the recession.
Also, the growth in ethnic populations isn't happening as fast as expected, said Robert Eyler, head of the Center for Regional and Economic Analysis at Sonoma State University.
"The bottom line is people are still reeling from the recession," Eyler said. "You're seeing people staying in one place."
From Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, Sonoma County's population rose by less than a half-percent, topping out at 487,011.
Windsor was the fastest growing of the nine cities, climbing seven-tenths of a percent to 27,003. Santa Rosa's population rose by half a percent to 168,841.
Cloverdale, Cotati, Rohnert Park and Sonoma had the least growth, just 0.1 percent.
The number of births and deaths in Sonoma County in 2011 was not immediately available Tuesday.
Lake County's population slumped for the second year, dropping by 1.7 percent to 63,266. The town of Lakeport saw the biggest decline at 2 percent, ending the year with 4,622 people.