PORTLAND, Maine — The population of Maine’s second- and third-largest cities, Lewiston and Bangor, continued to decline last year as the populations of the largest cities and towns in more densely populated southern Maine grew.

Among the state’s largest communities, those in central and northern Maine posted the steepest relative declines, with the exceptions of population-gaining Waterville and Orono, where the population basically was unchanged, according to community-level estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

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Among those cities, Falmouth in Cumberland County, Wells in York County and Waterville in Kennebec County posted the biggest gains in the last year, while populations fell in Lewiston, Bangor, Augusta, Brewer and Presque Isle.

In terms of total population count, southern Maine communities posted the largest absolute gains, along with Waterville and the Bangor suburbs of Hermon and Hampden.

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The trend for the latest year shows a continuation of gains for communities mostly in southern Maine, widening gaps since the last decennial census.

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The latest figures from the Census Bureau estimate only the total population increase or decline at the local level, but county-level data from the American Community Survey estimate the reason for population changes.

Cumberland and York counties have had the strongest population gains in recent years, with net increases in each major dynamic for population change, including the net difference in births and deaths and international and domestic migration.

Kennebec and Knox counties staved off overall population declines in the last year with gains from domestic migration that outpaced more deaths than births from July 2013 to July 2014. Androscoggin County offset losses in domestic migration with more births than deaths and a boost from international migration.

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Statewide in 2014, deaths outpaced the number of births, but the state gained population because of the first year since 2011 of positive migration into Maine from other states and continued gains from international migration.

Maine’s population was estimated at 1,330,089 in 2014.

Ranked by the rate of population change, Maine was 42nd in the country, behind Michigan and Wyoming. Five states — West Virginia, Illinois, Connecticut, Vermont and New Mexico — had population declines for that period.

Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.