Record Low Number of People Moving Reflects Lack of Jobs

Filed under: News,Relocation - Moving for Work,The Economy,Workforce Planning |

Bad times mean staying put.

The percentage of people who changed residences between 2010 and 2011 ─ 11.6% ─ was the lowest recorded rate since 1948. when the U.S. Census Bureau began collecting statistics on the movement of people in the United States.

Chicago, one of top 3 population losers.

The rate, which was 20.2% in 1985, declined to a then-record low of 11.9% in 2008 before rising to 12.5% in 2009, according to Geographical Mobility: 2011, a Census Bureau report.

For those who moved to a different county or state, the reasons for moving varied considerably by the length of their move, according to the report. When people moved a long distance between 2008 and 2009 ─ 500 or more miles ─ it was most likely for employment-related reasons, which were cited by 43.9% of such movers, as opposed to housing-related reasons, given by 11.6%. Conversely, when people didn’t move far ─ less than 50 miles ─ 40% did so for housing-related reasons.

Geographical Mobility: 2008 to 2009 [PDF], a report with analysis of various geographic mobility topics. It contains national- and state-level data from the 2009 Current Population Survey and American Community Survey.

“Taken together, these [statistics] paint a vivid picture of a nation on the move and tell a more complete story than any one of them can

separately,” said Alison Fields, chief of the Census Bureau’s Journey-to-Work and Migration Statistics Branch. “The record low mover rate was driven by a drop in the likelihood of people moving from one location to another within the same county. The last time this rate was so low, the overall mover rate also reached a record low.

The decline in the likelihood of people moving within the same county further illustrated the record overall low mobility rate, accoridng to the Census Bureau. In the 1950s the intercounty move rates was 13% to 14% . Moves within the same county declined to 7.7% between 2010 and 2011, a consistent trend since 2000.

From the Austin American-Statesman:

Intercounty moves have been at historic lows for four years, said William Frey, a senior demographer at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Sagging overall migration trends have “to do with home foreclosures and the bad economy. This is the key to put us at the historical low,” Frey said.

But he said there are other contributing factors, including increases in the ranks of older Americans, who tend not to move as much, and younger adults living with their parents because they can’t find jobs.

Young people, those who did manage to move to somewhere other than back home with mom and dad, flocked to hip urban areas, according to an analysis conduced by The Brookings Institution.

 To the extent they are moving at all, young adults are headed to metro areas which are known to have a certain vibe—college towns, high-tech centers, and so-called “cool cities.”

Consider the contrast: The top large metro area gainers for adults aged 25-34 in 2005 though 2007 were largely bubble economy hot spots: Riverside, Phoenix and Atlanta, with annual average population gains of 23,000, 14,000 and 12,000.

In the subsequent recession years, Riverside moved from first to eighth, gaining less than one-quarter of the young adults it drew during the bubble. Phoenix descended from second to 17th and Atlanta from third to 23th, each barely gaining any young adults. All three of these areas were magnets for jobs, but also affordable housing—perfect places for young people to jump start careers and families.

The cities where young people are moving in  include Denver, Houston, Dallas, Seattle, Austin, Washington D.C., and Portland. While the top three areas and Washington D.C. have weather the recession fairly well, but all seven cities are places where young people feel connected and have attachments to colleges or universities, according to the report. Two cities on the list gained markedly in rank as destinations for young movers: Denver, jumped from 12th to first, and Washington D.C., which leaped from 44th to sixth.

The stream of young people leaving Metro New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Boston have declined sharply. “Some potential migrants are holding tight, waiting for the next boom to come, but others may just choose to remain in these metros that have long held appeal to young people,” according to the report.

The Most Common State-to-State Moves

According to the 2010 American Community Survey, 45.3 million people lived in a different house within the United States one year earlier. Of these movers, 6.7 million lived in a different state. The most common state-to-state moves in 2010 were:

  • California to Texas (68,959 movers)
  • New York to Florida (55,011)
  • Florida to Georgia (49,901)
  • California to Arizona (47,164)
  • New Jersey to Pennsylvania (42,456)
  • New York to New Jersey (41,374)
  • California to Washington (39,468)
  • Texas to California (36,582)
  • Georgia to Florida (35,615)
  • California to Nevada (35,472)

The Census Bureau notes that flows in the top 10 may not be significantly different from each other or flows outside the top 10.

Four years earlier, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the most common move was Louisiana to Texas (118,552 moves). Among the next largest moves were New York to Florida (87,576) and California to Arizona (85,497). All in all, 7.9 million people moved between states during the 2005 to 2006 period.

In early 2012, the Census Bureau will release the American Community Survey 2005-2009 County-to-County Migration Flow File, the first statistics on this topic since the 2000 Census. The report will show the number of moves between pairs of counties, with tabulations provided by age, sex, and race and Hispanic origin.

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