Four of the five largest cities in the metro-east have seen their populations drop since 2010, according to estimates released Thursday from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The population loss includes 11 of the 20 largest towns in the metro-east and St. Clair and Madison counties as a whole, according to the bureau. Monroe County, though, saw an increase of 358 residents and is now home to 33,357 people.
St. Clair County has about 1,500 fewer residents and now has 268,858 residents, and Madison County lost more than 1,400 residents and now has 267,883.
The bureau factors in the number of births, deaths, migrations and housing units to arrive at the revised population estimates.
Belleville, the largest city in the metro-east, is believed to have lost the most residents of any local city. The city is estimated to have lost more than 700 people and now has 43,765 residents.
Judy Doyle, a real estate agent with Re/Max Preferred who focuses upon selling homes in Belleville, said she has seen a jump in activity in the real estate market and Belleville is still a great place to live.
"The market has been down but I think it's starting to pick up," Doyle said. "We still sell a lot of property in Belleville. I feel people are still gravitating here. People do move in and out of town, but I think we need to put in perspective 700 (fewer) residents compared to 40,000."
The second most populous city, Granite City, lost about 300 residents and now has 29,545. Alton lost 450 residents and is believed to have 27,415 residents. East St. Louis lost about 300 residents and has 26,708 people.
O'Fallon, the third most populous city in the metro-east, bucked the trend as its population increased by more than 900 people since 2010. The bureau estimates 29,193 people now live in the city.
O'Fallon's proximity to Scott Air Force Base and reputation for high quality public schools continues to draw in new residents, according to local real estate agent David Holden. He and Susan Holden are owners of Re/Max Preferred, the same company where Doyle is employed. The company sells homes throughout the metro-east and is based at offices in O'Fallon and Swansea.
"We get phone calls specifically from buyers saying 'We want O'Fallon schools,'" Holden said. "We don't get those calls for (other towns). ... You've got to have something that keeps demand at least stable when the market tanks and the school systems in O'Fallon have done that."
The demand is so great in O'Fallon that buyers are beginning to see a lack of homes up for sale, Holden said.
"If you look nationwide there are markets suffering for inventory, by that I mean they don't have enough inventory," Holden said. "We're just starting to see that again here. Not in the numbers seen in California and Oregon, but there is a lot more activity from a buyer's standpoint."
Population roller coaster in the metro-east
The largest percentage jump in population was in Mascoutah. The Census Bureau estimates the town had a nearly 5 percent bump in population, about 370 new residents.
Mascoutah had 7,483 residents in 2010 compared to an estimated 7,853 residents in 2012. The town is now believed to be larger than Maryville, a change since 2010.
O'Fallon, Shiloh, Swansea also have seen significant bumps in the cities estimated population. Shiloh is now believed to have more residents than Glen Carbon.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Centreville had the largest loss in the percentage of residents of the major towns in St. Clair County. The city's population fell an estimated 115 people from 5,309 residents in 2010 to 5,194 residents in 2012.
Likewise, the population of Collinsville has dropped from 25,579 residents in 2010 to an estimated 25,240 in 2012.
In Madison County, the biggest percentage of gains in major town was seen in Maryville with a more than 4 percent bump in population. The village increased from 7,487 residents in 2010 to an estimated 7,799 residents in 2012.
The neighboring towns of Edwardsville and Troy also seen slight increases in population. In comparison to 2010, Troy is now estimated to have more residents than Highland. Troy had a slight increase to 9,946 residents while Highland's population dropped to 9,900 residents.
The two largest cities in Monroe County, Waterloo and Columbia, both had jumps in populations, according to the Census Bureau.
Waterloo's population has grown from 9,811 in 2010 to 9,947 in 2012. The jump means the city is now estimated to have more residents than Troy and Highland.
Statewide, population is estimated to have jumped about 34,800 people to about 12,875,000 total Illinois residents.
Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2501.