So maybe you read our massive migration report roundup we published last month. You can bet the states in those reports did too.
What do the states themselves make of all that inconsistent and sometimes flat-out contradictory information—especially the less than flattering states? Let’s see what our journalists and analysts across the country have to say about the numbers.
The Word From Inbound State Winners
Oregon’s Register-Guard touts their home state as “among the nation’s top moving destinations”, though according to Atlas, they are merely in America’s top 16%. The Register backs up their United and Atlas references with a few figures from the US Census Bureau as they state that “Oregon added nearly 57,000 residents between July 2016 and July 2017, and more than 80 percent of that growth was from people moving in, rather than from births outpacing deaths.”
Forecasting a sustainability issue with these US Census findings is this report from the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis which tells us that “expectations are for population growth to taper in the short-term.”
In addition, we are told that “moving forward, Oregon’s population growth will increasingly rely on migrants.”
In other words, if Oregon wants to continue to grow they’ll need to reverse the tide carrying them toward balanced migration.
But some remain bullish on Oregon’s future. Portland’s KOIN News tells us that not only was Oregon the nation’s ninth-fastest growing state in 2017 but the housing crisis – putting the average Portland home in the $350,000 range and a two-bedroom apartment around $1,300 per month – may be starting to abate.
“Apartment List says that after rising through August 2016, rents in Portland dropped the rest of the year and are now down 1.7 percent from last January, including a 1.0 percent drop last month,” goes the quote. “Abodo (another apartment finder) also says the rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Portland dropped 0.95 percent last month…Rents may continue to decline through 2018 because so many new apartments are coming online in Portland.”
This, naturally, is good news to those of us serving all the apartment-renting DIY movers out there.
Meanwhile, In Idaho, Oregon’s neighbors to the east are taking a less constrained, less empirical view of the recent migration findings. Realtor Lynette Neibaur tells KMTV of Twin Falls, Idaho “I think people are just kind of realizing how cool Idaho can be.”
United’s stats, however, suggest otherwise as roughly one-third of Idaho’s inbound moves were based on employment, with the influence of family not far behind. Granted, Idaho may be trending as a cool place to live as close to half of the state’s inbounders gave retirement or lifestyle as a reason behind their relocation.
Down in Alabama, the new mantra for economic development is not “follow the money” but, as Lawrence Specker of AL.com puts it, “follow the furniture”. After a six-year inbound stretch starting in 2003 Alabama fell into a balanced funk in 2009. This year they once again join the inbound ranks at #10, perhaps causing one to wonder if the Gem State may be getting their mojo back.
But all is not crimson as a rose down in Birmingham. “It’s only one data point,” says University of South Alabama associate sociology professor Doug Marshall. “United’s report blurs regional differences and omits some possibly relevant factors.”
Also significant are the age breakdowns of inbounders and outbounders. Alabama lost residents in the Under-35 bracket as well as the 45-54 age group. Their 55-and-overpopulation, meanwhile, is evidently on the rise. This could be taken as an indication that Alabama’s workforce is getting older as their retired population increases. 60% of inbounders gave employment as a factor in their move (but so did 75% of outbounders).
Then again, Professor Marshall points out that United’s numbers “are all about who’s moving, not who’s working.” Alabama’s goal “hasn’t been to attract new workers to the state, it’s been to provide jobs for people who are already here.”
So where is the bulk of Alabama’s workforce coming from? And is that workforce really getting older? Is Alabama really on the cusp of another six-year inbound stretch?
Only time will tell. For now, we’ll just let them bask in the glow of their inbound status. And their college football national championships.
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The Las Vegas Review Journal starts out its report on United’s findings on a high note, reveling in the high number of people moving to Nevada to retire and an even higher percentage moving in for employment. But that news is tempered with the fact that an even higher percentage is leaving the state for employment. Before we get to deep into these particular numbers we turn to economist Michael Stoll, who appears in countless news articles on the subject of United’s numbers.
“The numbers are deceiving,” he says, claiming that the recent decrease in people moving to Nevada for work “translates to an increase in people moving into Nevada under 35” since that sector of the workforce is generally less able to afford a full-service moving company like United.
While Mr. Stoll might sound a bit overly-speculative, some numbers from the US Census Bureau back this up. Specifically, the median age of adults in southern Nevada has fallen from just over 40 in 2000 to just under 36 in 2016. Couple this with the fact that the apartment rental market has been trending toward higher rents and lower vacancy rates, and there’s reason to believe that there are plenty of younger professionals moving in without the help of the major van lines.
Speaking on behalf of Arizona a year ago, the folks at AZCentral.com got all excited with their “Arizona Cracks Top Ten” article. “Arizona might be emerging as a hot destination for newcomers,” they begin, soon adding the fact that they didn’t make the top ten in 2015.
In their excitement, however, they missed the fact that North American had them ranked as the nation’s number two top inbound state, not only in 2016, but in 2015 as well.
This year they managed a 55% inbound rate on United’s survey, which matches Alabama’s numbers. United, however, put Alabama in their #10 slot, nudging Arizona back off the top ten list. This may be the reason we’ve had no luck finding any talk coming out of Arizona this year about their inbound-outbound migration.
They really should really take a look at the 2017 report by North American Van Lines—where they are ranked number one.
The Word From Outbound State Losers
No matter which van line survey Illinois looks at, they find themselves the outbound “champion”.
FOX32 News in Chicago handled it by simply breezing over the story (And since they certainly won’t say it, we will: Illinois has been an outbound state every single year for United since 1979, the earliest year shown on United’s interactive map.)
The folks at Illinois Policy are less shy about confronting the situation, pointing out that their state fared worst on every major van line report out there before offering up a variety of sobering stats: Pennsylvania has moved ahead of Illinois in terms of overall population.
Since 2010, Illinois has lost the equivalent of their largest four cities after Chicago; in 2015 the state lost $4.75 billion in revenue from outbound migration, which further stresses the already heavy property tax burden shouldered by those still around.
With the very real prospect of more Illinoisans leaving the state to escape what are among the nation’s highest property taxes the situation seems like a downward spiral that will prove extremely challenging to reverse.
Poor Indiana. Our economist friend Michael Stoll echoes that sentiment in this Indiana Public Media piece, suggesting “once a state becomes high outbound, it’s hard to reverse.” The same article features billboards in Indiana that essentially rip on Illinois’s high taxes (“Stillinnoyed?”) in an effort to lure people across the state line.
And yet, Indiana ranked as an outbound state on United’s study every year from 1993 to 2009. Since then, they’ve managed to rank as balanced, except in 2015, when a dozen states formed an “outbound yellow” line stretching from Massachusetts clear out to Kansas.
Indiana may have slowed (if not entirely halted) their outbound migratory trend – they were still 54% outbound in 2017 – but the outlook isn’t all Little House on the Prairie. “They’ll have to increasingly rethink their economic base,” says Stoll. “Indiana is a more diversified economy now but specialization might be something that Indiana will have to think about.”
On a side note, almost half of Indiana’s outbounders (48%) were from the Under-45 population while a little over half (51%) were over 55.
Unfortunately for Indiana, this graying-over may be about the only thing they have in common with Vermont.
On the other side of Illinois, the folks in Iowa aren’t shy about expressing their utter confusion on the subject. “Are we coming or going?” asks the Des Moines Business Record. A fair question, perhaps, as Iowa in 2017 was 56% outbound according to Atlas, balanced (51% inbound) according to North American, balanced but precariously close to outbound (54%) according to United, and, taking U-Haul’s figures into account, the nation’s twelfth-ranked state for 2017 in terms of growth.
Maybe Iowa should go with the US Census Bureau’s stats. From 2016 to 2017 Iowa gained a grand total of 11,018 people. Which may mean they aren’t really going anywhere.
East of Indiana, the folks at the Toledo (Ohio) Blade lumped their state’s #7 outbound ranking by United with the larger picture of the northeast and Midwest populations choosing to “leave cold, gray climates for warm, scenic places.” We’re not sure we can wholeheartedly with such a simple summation since 65% of outbound responders cited employment as a factor in relocating while less than 7% mentioned lifestyle.
But the Blade deserves kudos for looking at the in-state success story of Columbus – “among the fastest-growing cities in America” – and raising the issues that Toledo needs to address if they want to see similar growth and progress.
New York and New Jersey
In a similar spirit of facing their failings head-on, New York’s NBC News 4 pulls no self-directed punches, leaving #1 Illinois out with their headline “New Jersey, New York, Connecticut ‘Most Moved From’ States in America.” I’m sure New Jersey appreciates that.
“People are continuing to flee the tri-state area,” the article begins before tossing out various factors and percentages from United’s report (and a quote from Mr. Stoll) before finally, down at the bottom, mentioning that Illinois was the top migration loser.
“New Jersey previously held the top spot for 5 consecutive years,” they add in a seeming effort to keep the attention, no matter how negative, on themselves.
Even the photo at the top of the article contains a measure of failure. (Note the bottom box on the mover’s hand truck.) And like Arizona, they fail to make themselves look any better by ignoring other van lines’ reports. According to North American, New York only ranks #8 on the outbound list. Similarly they are #7 according to Atlas, who doesn’t even have New Jersey or Connecticut in their top ten.
Then again, who would expect New York to bring up any report that makes New Jersey and Connecticut look better than them?
Connecticut, on the other hand, did use the Atlas findings to contrast their dismal standing with United. “Connecticut had only a small number of outbound households outnumbering inbound moves,” they report. Then they use some metropolitan area-related numbers from the US Census Bureau to point out that in the past year “southwestern Connecticut drew roughly twice as many new arrivals from New York as households headed in the opposite direction.”
Expect New York to comb through the US Census Bureau’s stats next year to find a way to jab back.
Connecticut could also take a page out of Iowa’s playbook and use U-Haul’s numbers to pretty up their picture. According to this piece on Cision, Connecticut comes in at #8 in terms of one-way U-Haul truck rentals throughout the US. Taking into account their rise from #42 in 2015 and #17 in 2016 Connecticut could almost claim they are on the inbound comeback trail.
And hey! Illinois! U-Haul said that you’ve been replaced by California as the biggest net loser! Better luck next year.