Data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that only four of Maine’s 16 counties gained population in the year from July 1, 2012 to July 1, 2013.

Cumberland County was the fastest-growing county during the period, gaining 1,616 residents – 0.57 percent. Hancock County had a gain of 279 people (0.51 percent); York County added 390 people (0.2 percent); and Waldo County gained 70 residents (0.18 percent).

Cumberland is by far Maine’s most populous county and home to its largest city, Portland. The census data shows that it had 285,456 residents as of July 1 of last year. York and Penobscot counties were second and third, with 199,431 and 153,364 people, respectively.

Among the 12 counties that lost population, Aroostook County was the biggest loser. Its population decreased by 734 people, 1.04 percent.

Washington County lost 291 people, 0.9 percent. Kennebec County, home of Augusta, the state’s capital, declined by 546 people, 0.45 percent.

Maine was the only state in New England to have a population decrease during that period, losing 199 people, 0.01 percent of the state’s 1.3 million residents.

Massachusetts had the most growth, gaining more than 47,500 people.

“The information is important because it gets used for a variety of purposes by a number of different organizations,” said Ben Bolander, a demographer for the Census Bureau.

He said state and local government agencies can use the data for applications for federal aid, and for planning and development projects. Businesses and nonprofits also use the information.

Bolander said the population information is released annually by the Census Bureau. He said more data will be released in June, including county business patterns, which help government and private-sector officials understand how population trends are affecting the economy.

The Census Bureau also provided a breakdown of vital events – births and deaths – for each county in the data it released Thursday.

While Cumberland County recorded the most births in the one-year tracking period, 2,704, more people died in Cumberland than in any other county, 2,449.

Penobscot County recorded the second-most deaths in the state, with 1,487. The fewest deaths, 216, were reported in Piscataquis County, which also had the fewest births, 129.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com