Ko Im always hoped to live in New York for all her life. Ko Im was familiar with every part of Manhattan and had worked hard for a group of friends. She was living in a tiny apartment and noticed a shift in her attitude during the coronavirus epidemic. She decided to follow her brother’s lead and move to Seattle when he accepted a job there in the summer 2020.

It was fine up until it wasn’t,” Im, 36, stated about her time in New York. “The pandemic changed my outlook about how I wanted or needed to live my life.”

Eighteen of the 10 largest U.S. cities lost their population in the first year after the pandemic. New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago were the most affected. New York lost over 305,000 people between July 2020 and July 2021. Chicago and Los Angeles saw their population decline by 45,000 and 40,000, respectively, during the pandemic.

San Francisco saw the greatest decline with almost 55,000 people losing their homes, which is 6.3% of the 2020 population. This was the highest percentage of any U.S. City.

The U.S. Census Bureau released population estimates Thursday that capture a period early in the pandemic, and do not reflect any changes since last summer. It remains to be seen if the virus has affected the urban landscape in America.

William Frey, Brookings Institution’s demographer, said that he believes the population drops in the United States’ largest cities between 2020 and 2021 were “short-lived” and “pandemic-related.”

Only San Antonio and Phoenix were among the 10 largest U.S. towns that gained new residents. However, they each added just 13,000 people, or less than 1%, according to the bureau’s 2021 vintage population estimates.

Justin Jordan moved to Phoenix last year because he was offered a better job than his one in Moundsville West Virginia. He had to adapt to 110°F (43.3°C) temperatures and unwieldy traffic.

Jordan, 33, is a senior operations manager at a business service firm.

The largest U.S. cities were Austin and Fort Worth, Texas, Jacksonville, Florida, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Columbus, Ohio. They also saw modest population growth.

The Census Bureau published March estimates for metropolitan areas and counties, showing changes between mid-2020 and mid-2021. Thursday’s estimates offer a more detailed perspective. The March data revealed that metro Dallas saw the greatest population growth in the U.S. with more than 97,000 new residents. However, Thursday’s estimates showed Dallas losing nearly 15,000 residents. Dallas suburbs such as Frisco, McKinney, and Plano saw the most growth.

The reasons for population growth vary from one city to the next, depending on housing costs, job opportunities, births, and deaths. Living in a crowded area was less appealing after the pandemic of 2020 and the lockdown in spring 2020. Those who were able to leave, such as workers who could work remotely, sometimes did.