Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday defended the loss of population in parts of upstate New York, attributing the fall in part to the weather.

“More people are leaving upstate, net,” Cuomo told reporters after addressing the Business Council’s annual gathering in Bolton Landing. “People will make demographic choices about where they want to live. Some of them are climate based. Some of them are personal reasons. Leaving upstate is nothing new.”

Cuomo’s Republican opponent Marc Molinaro this week highlighted the population trend in upstate New York, blaming the governor’s track record on the economy for the declining and aging population.

But Cuomo in his speech to the Business Council defended his fiscal stewardship of the state during his two terms in office, pointing to a cap on property tax increases, a voluntary cap on spending hikes and an effort to attract new business.

In a gaggle with reporters, he noted people had fled the state before, but for economic reasons.

“That is no longer the case,” he said. “Someone wants to move to Florida, they want to move to Florida. God bless them. They want to fish, they want the warm weather, God bless them. But we were chasing people from this state. We are now attracting people to this state.”

New York’s population as a whole has not grown as fast as the rest of the country, a shift that has been seen over the last several decades and pre-dating Cuomo’s time in office. It’s likely New York will lose at least one congressional seat after the 2020 Census.

“That doesn’t change the fact that young people are moving to upstate New York, we have more jobs than ever, our taxes are lower than ever,” Cuomo said. “It doesn’t change any of that.”

After Cuomo’s remarks, his top economic development advisor, Howard Zemsky, issued a statement also blaming the weather, specifically the brutal northeast winters.

“For the first time in what feels like forever, millennials are staying, moving back and planting roots in communities across Upstate New York,” said Zemsky, the president of the Empire State Development Corp.

“We’re seeing it in areas like Buffalo and Rochester, where downtown and waterfront revitalization efforts are creating vibrant, inviting cities and attracting innovative companies that are generating the jobs of tomorrow. Unfortunately, after decades of outmigration and young people leaving Upstate, the region’s population is older and many choose warmer weather after retirement or otherwise depart from New York State. These factors must be taken into account when discussing population trends. We’re making tremendous progress, which is supported by the facts and data. It’s also true that this process will take time to repair many decades of damage and you shouldn’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise.”