U.S. Migration Patterns Show Positive Economic Outlook

By Kathy Gurchiek Jan 21, 2015

Seven U.S. states experienced a shift in their migration status in 2014, according to the latest Atlas Van Lines Migration Patterns study. Moving company Atlas has been providing a snapshot of interstate relocation patterns within the nation for 22 years, as reflected in its moving of household goods.

“It is vital for not only the moving industry, but also our nation, to track migration patterns and better understand why and where individuals are relocating,” said Jack Griffin, president and chief operating officer for Atlas World Group, in a news release.

The seven states that experienced a shift included Florida, Mississippi and Washington, which all had more people moving in than out in 2014. With its shift to being an inbound state, Florida broke its nine-year streak as a balanced state.

Missouri, Vermont and West Virginia saw more people moving out of state than in for 2014. Meanwhile, Montana, which had registered more inbound than outbound moves in 2013, became balanced in 2014.

A state is considered inbound when it has more than 55 percent of total household goods shipments moving into it, and outbound when it has more than 55 percent of total shipments moving out of it. A balanced state has roughly the same number of people moving in as moving out.

In 2014, 26 states were balanced, 14 were outbound states, and 10 states and Washington, D.C., saw more inbound moves. The total number of interstate moves in the U.S. and inter-provincial moves in Canada dipped slightly from 77,308 in 2013 to 76,979 in 2014.

“One of the more positive signs is that a majority of the states remain balanced,” said Lauren Falls, corporate marketing specialist for Atlas. “It’s a very promising sign that the economy is stabilizing.”

North Carolina, Texas and Washington, D.C., have been the most consistently inbound—all have been so for at least the last 10 years.

One of the reasons for North Carolina’s inbound status is that the triangle area of Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill is one of the most highly educated areas in the country, according to Falls. These cities “draw a lot of young professionals and college students,” she said.

And Texas—named in a NerdWallet study released Jan. 12, 2014, as the top state for job seekers—is experiencing a tech boom in cities such as Dallas and Austin.

Companies at inbound states frequently promote not only their organizations but also the area’s culture and amenities such as public transportation, green space and lower cost of living, Falls observed.

“[That] plays a big role in a person’s decision to move to another area,” she said. “Younger people want to be someplace that’s hip and trendy [and] a lot of those technological startups,” such as in Dallas and Austin, “[are] definitely attracting a lot of young talent.”

Among other findings, North Dakota experienced the highest percentage of inbound moves (64 percent) and New York experienced the highest percentage of outbound moves (61 percent).

Migration Trends by U.S. Region

North. Vermont changed from a balanced state to an outbound state in 2014. New York and New Jersey have been outbound states for more than 12 years. Washington, D.C., remained the only inbound location in this region.

South. Three states in this region changed status—Florida and Mississippi went from balanced to inbound states, while West Virginia shifted from balanced to outbound. Texas and Florida were the Southern states with the highest number of moves for the third straight year (13,137 and 10,226, respectively).

Midwest. Missouri shifted from balanced to outbound. North Dakota was the only state in this region to register as inbound; it had the highest percentage of inbound moves for the second consecutive year.

West. Montana changed from an inbound to a balanced state and Washington changed from a balanced to an inbound state. California had the highest number of total moves—13,967—for the third consecutive year. As in 2013, the majority of states in this region remained balanced.

Migration Trends in Canada

Examining cross-border shipments to and from the U.S., Atlas found that the most significant relocation changes in 2014 occurred in five Canadian provinces:

  • Alberta and New Brunswick went from being balanced to registering more outbound moves. Alberta experienced the highest percentage of inbound moves (38 percent) among the provinces, followed by British Columbia and New Brunswick (both 36 percent).
  • Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island went from inbound provinces to registering more outbound moves. Newfoundland experienced the highest percentage of outbound moves among the provinces (88 percent), followed by Manitoba and Saskatchewan (both 73 percent).
  • The Northwest Territories went from being outbound to having more inbound moves.

Ontario has been the most consistent outbound Canadian province, based on Atlas shipment data from 2005-2014.

“[We’re] seeing a lot of employee relocation to the U.S. from Canada,” Falls said, attributing the many cross-border moves to job growth in the U.S.

Kathy Gurchiek is the associate editor of HR News. Follow her @SHRMwriter.​​​


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