SACRAMENTO — California's population grew at the same modest pace during the year that ended in July as it did during the previous 12 months, sending the population to 37.8 million, according to a state population estimate released Thursday.
The report by the Department of Finance also found the state lost 14,000 people due to net migration, meaning more people left California than moved in. While the state gained about 96,000 immigrants from other countries, it lost nearly 110,000 people to other states.
That marked the smallest net migration loss for California in recent years, suggesting a slowdown in the flow of people who are relocating.
However, due to the birth rate, California added 256,000 people from July 2011 to July 2012 for a growth rate of 0.7 percent. During the past year, the state logged more than a half-million births compared with 234,000 deaths.
In recent decades, California routinely grew from births and from incoming migration. However, state figures show there has been a net loss in migration each year since 2004.
The largest drop occurred in 2008-2009, when more than 89,000 people left amid the Great Recession, when the housing market collapsed and unemployment spiked.
Chief demographer Bill Schooling noted that many of the people who left in the most recent year had been living in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Diego counties.
Schooling said immigrants account for a portion of the movement because California has always been an entry point for people from other countries.
"Although they're immigrants when they come here, once they're here, if they move across the state border, that's a domestic migrant," he said.
The state uses different methodology than the Census Bureau to provide timely information about population changes. In addition to tracking births and deaths, the state monitors driver's license address changes.
Five counties — Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Diego and Santa Clara — accounted for more than half of the state's population growth.
Placer, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Riverside and San Benito counties posted the largest percentage increases in population while Lassen, Plumas and Sierra saw the largest percentage decreases.
A dozen rural counties — Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Lake, Mariposa, Modoc, Nevada, Plumas, Sierra, Siskiyou, Trinity and Tuolumne — saw more deaths than births during the fiscal year.