WELCH, W.Va. — Census figures show that a near-record level of U.S. counties are "dying" — that is, they are experiencing more deaths than births in their communities.
About 1 in 4 counties — or roughly 760 — are fading away. They stretch from industrial areas near Pittsburgh and Cleveland to the vineyards outside San Francisco to the rural areas of east Texas and the Great Plains.
Once-booming housing areas have not been immune, including parts of Florida.
According to the latest census figures, West Virginia was the first state to experience a natural decrease statewide since 2000. Maine, Pennsylvania and Vermont could follow soon.
Demographers say the problem is spreading. It comes amid a prolonged U.S. job slump.
© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.