ERS analyzed the census estimates and found that from July 2011 to July 2012 population in non-metro counties fell 0.2 percent, meaning more people died or moved away than were born in or migrated to those counties. From April 2010 to July 2012, the decline was 0.1 percent. The Daily Yonder notes that the Census Bureau started estimating county populations in the 1960s.
While ERS geographer John Cromartie writes that this is "a historic shift," It should be noted that non-metro counties do not contain all the rural population, much of which lives in rural census tracts of counties that have been placed within metro areas because more than a fourth of their workforce commutes to the area's core counties. Such counties tend to be gaining population, not losing it.
Read more) Here's a county map of rural population trends; click on it for a larger image.