U.S. birth and fertility rates both dropped last year to the lowest levels in decades, a report showed Thursday.
The number of U.S. babies born in 2017 dropped 2 percent from 2016 to 3.85 million, the lowest level since 1987, according to the report by the National Center for Health Statistics of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Births have fallen for three straight years in the United States, as nearly all age groups of women under 40 gave birth to fewer babies, the report showed.
Meanwhile, the total fertility rate fell 3 percent to 1.76 births per woman last year, the lowest since 1978, it added.
Unlike the birth rate which records the number of live births per 1,000 people per year, the total fertility rate estimates the number of births that a hypothetical group of 1,000 women would have over their lifetimes, the report explained.
Economists worry that the dwindling numbers of newborns could have a major effect on the U.S. economy.
"Demographics have a really powerful impact on the economy," Kathy Bostjancic, an economist at consulting firm Oxford Economics, told the Associated Press.
Roughly 10 years ago, the number of Americans working or looking for work was growing about 1 percent annually. With birth rates declining, that figure has since fallen to about a 0.3 percent growth rate, she said.
That essentially acts as a 0.7-percentage-point drag on the U.S. long-run growth rate, she added.
On the bright side, the birth rate for teenage mothers aged 15 to 19 was down 7 percent last year to 18.8 births per 1,000 women, another record low for this age group.
Since 2007, the birth rate for teenage mothers registered a total decline of 55 percent, said the report.