WASHINGTON -- West Virginia was one of just two states in the nation to lose population between the middle of 2012 and the middle of 2013, according to estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Monday.
The state's estimated population went from 1,856,680 on July 1, 2012, to 1,854,304 on July 1, 2013 -- an estimated decrease of 2,376 residents.
Maine was the only other state with a decline in estimated population, and its drop was fewer than 200 residents.
North Dakota's population expanded at nearly twice the rate of the next-fastest-growing state, according to the Census estimates. That boom was driven by the state's thriving oil and gas industry.
Population estimates are eagerly watched by state officials since they determine the flow of money into many federal programs and, ultimately, representation in Congress. The number of representatives each state has in the House of Representatives gets readjusted each decade.
At least one national political website, Real Clear Politics, predicted Monday that West Virginia would lose one of its three seats in the U.S. House in 2020, given current population trends.
West Virginia has never had fewer than three U.S. House members in its 150-year history.
The state had six seats in the House for five decades in the middle of the 20th century, but lost one after the 1960 Census, another after the 1970 Census and another after the 1990 Census.