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Hard times in Tuolumne County

The average Tuolumne County resident is getting older and is worse-off financially than a decade ago, a new statistical profile of the county shows.

The 2012 Tuolumne County Profile was compiled by the philanthropic Sonora Area Foundation and released Wednesday.

The 85-page report examined statistics on county population, age, employment, the environment, health, education and the economy, offering a current snapshot and tracking trends in those areas.

It found the county’s population continued to dip over the past year, extending a slide that started in 2007.

The 2012 county population was 50,530, down 2 percent from 2011 and down about 3.6 percent from 2006, when the county population was 52,398.

As the population has shrunk, it’s also gotten older, losing many working-age adults, the report found.

Citing census data between 2000 and 2010, it shows the population of people aged 40 to 54 has dropped from 11,837 to 7,467, and the population of adults aged 25 to 39 years shrank from 7,069 in 2000 to 6,742 a decade later.

Following that trend, the number of children aged 5 to 17 has declined from 8,583 to 6,803.

 The population decrease dovetailed with rising unemployment and a drop in average income, according to the profile.

In 2007, on the eve of the Great Recession, the county’s unemployment rate was 6.2 percent, or 1,600 unemployed people. That rose to 14 percent in 2010, or about 3,580 working-age people without jobs.

The report states that Tuolumne County has been “hit hard” by the economic downturn.

“If you put the two together, you have families that are leaving Tuolumne County,” said Ed Wylie, the foundation’s executive director.

Wylie said he believes the profile can be used as a tool to track local trends through those tough times.

The profile, he said, can help us see “what is starting to recover and what may not be recovering so quickly.”

The 2012 profile is the second update of an ongoing study launched by the foundation in 2005. Wylie said it is intended to give government agencies and local organizations a tool for organizing programs and writing grants.

This year’s profile was completed by the Center for Economic Development at California State University, Chico.

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