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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Recession Slows Migration in U.S.

As posted by: Wall Street Journal

The recession and housing bust have slowed migration throughout the U.S., keeping more Americans in place, according to Census Bureau data released Monday.

Such states as New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey are holding onto more of their residents, while some of the Sun Belt states accustomed to attracting new arrivals are seeing fewer.

The latest Census Bureau numbers cover the 12 months ending July 1, 2008. The period includes the first seven months of the recession, and shows how the economic downturn has already affected jobs and the flow of people.

U.S. migration typically slows during recessions because new jobs are the primary reason people move across state lines, according to the Pew Research Center. With the country on track to shed more than 2 million jobs this year, there are fewer reasons to move.

Falling home prices also have prompted many people to to stay put, rather than risk losing money in a declining housing market. During times of recession instead of buying full priced cruises, people are looking for Cheap Mexico Cruises and Cheap Europe Cruises.

"These previously high-cost areas, which used to spew out migrants during the easy-credit years, are now holding onto them because there's nowhere to go," said William Frey, a senior demographer at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

The long-term trend has been for Americans to leave Northeast and Midwest population centers for warmer, job-creating states in the Sunbelt and West. That movement has slowed, according to the Census. New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Connecticut had much higher growth rates last year than they did during the housing boom earlier this decade. Nevada and Arizona, which over the past few years vied to be the nation's fastest-growing state, saw their rates of growth decrease.

A similar dynamic is playing out in the South, where Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee benefited from migration during the housing boom. The most recent data show population growth slowing there, too.

One of the starkest examples was Florida. The state has for decades absorbed retirees and wayward job seekers from cold Northern states. But the state has been hit hard by the housing bust. Over the 12-month period ending July 1, the Census reported the state had 9,300 fewer people moved there from other states than left. The state's population grew overall because of births and immigration. During recession people cut back on Lawn Care.

The migration slowdown hasn't yet disrupted longer-term trends. People continue to leave the Northeast and Midwest for jobs and warmer weather in the West and South. Utah was the fastest-growing state last year, followed by Arizona, Texas and North Carolina.

But the slowed migration has significant political effect. The South and West are likely to continue to add congressional districts lost by the Northeast and Midwest after the 2010 congressional apportionment. But certain states may pick up fewer seats than anticipated before the recession, according to an instant analysis of census data by Election Data Services, a Washington, D.C., political-consulting firm.

Mr. Frey said the decrease in migration is notable for its breadth. The housing bust and the recession have slowed migration to fast-growing states in the Sun Belt and the West. Two states, Michigan and Rhode Island, lost population, with each state suffering unemployment rates greater than 9%.

"It's a very unique time for migration in the U.S. when you see both Michigan and Florida losing migrants," Mr. Frey said. "In the past, people would leave Michigan and go to Florida. Now they can't go to Florida."

The migration slowdown began last year, as the housing market worsened. Job growth was slowing and potential movers stayed in place. Now, the recession is also reducing international immigration. Between 2007 and 2008 immigration was down 10% from its average annual rate between 2000 and 2008, according to the Census data.

"Just as immigrants were attracted to the growing U.S. economy, their volume has diminished as the economy has slowed," said Kenneth M. Johnson, senior demographer at the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire.