NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 29, 2010

Census data portray a sharp shift in migration during the depths of the recession, from July 2008 to July 2009.  With home prices slammed and few jobs available in any state, people from Massachusetts to California decided to stay put or go back where they came from:

  • The Las Vegas metropolitan area lost about 1,300 residents to other areas, compared with an annual inflow of 54,000 people during the height of the real estate boom.
  • This marks the first year of out-migration Las Vegas has seen in at least a century.
  • The Orlando area also swung to an outflow of about 4,300 from an inflow of 52,000 in 2004-2005.

At the same time, some cities accustomed to losing people are showing net gains:

  • The government's growing role in the economy has benefited the Washington, D.C., area, which drew 18,200 residents from other states, its first net gain since 2002.
  • The Boston area swung to an inflow of about 6,800 in 2008-2009 from an outflow of about 46,000 in 2004-2005
  • The Chicago area's outflow narrowed to about 40,400 from about 77,400.

Overall, migration within the United States has declined sharply - a phenomenon that could present yet another hurdle for an economy still trying to recover.  Past recessions have seen regional shifts where people left the hardest-hit areas in hope of finding better prospects a few states away.  In the 1980s recession, for instance, many people moved from depressed manufacturing hubs in the upper Midwest to Southern oil states, where the economy was booming.  If depressed housing prices prevent enough people from moving to seek work, that labor flexibility could be lost.

Source: Conor Dougherty, "Sun Belt Loses Its Shine," Wall Street Journal, March 24, 2010

For Census report:


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