US Migration – Changes & Trends, Reasons & Theories

Where people are moving to - and moving away from - can be very helpful to mobility professionals in designing relocation programs, retaining existing talent and attracting new talent. Here's a mid-year update on moving migration trends.

Map and computers - 800 wide migration 110218

Nothing Could Be Finer Than to Be in the Carolinas
● Idaho – Not Just for Potatoes Anymore
● Sun, Sand, Jobs, and Lifestyle Are in Florida

People on the Move
Business and industry are in constant flux and, consequently, this impacts employees and the potential for moving and relocation. Shifts in trends, policies, and the economy don’t only affect corporations, but also millions of homeowners and their families. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 14% of the population – or nearly 40 million people – move every year. They relocate for a variety of reasons: jobs, family, weather, school, etc. Annual migration studies follow these moves and report as to which states have the largest influx of people and which are losing residents. Being aware of migration patterns can provide organizations with an idea of where people are moving to and why. This data can then be used to help attract the best candidates.

Human Resources and Corporate Mobility professionals need to understand how these migration patterns impact new hire recruitment and employee relocations. Professionals who are responsible for talent recruitment and retention know that moving (and the relocation benefits package extended) is a huge factor in the acceptance – or rejection of a job offer by a potential or current employee. Thanks to the internet, recruits are doing their own research on whether or not to accept a new job offer. They are making decisions based on factors including cost of living, housing, weather, and lifestyle. In short, the decision to relocate is much more complicated than in the past; employees ask more questions, have more obstacles, and need more detailed information.

Comparing 2018 to 2017
In comparing migration data from northAmerican and the American Moving and Storage Association for the first half of 2018 versus 2017, moving patterns have remained fairly consistent, but a few developments are worth noting:

o Moving is down overall, with the strongest migration from central U.S. to south, southeast and west. Over the past decade, the total number of individuals moving has been declining. And of those that do move, the trend continues to be away from the central and northeastern states – states historically considered industry centers – and to states in the southeast (like the Carolinas and Florida) and west (Idaho). These trends may in part be due to declines in the number of companies physically relocating employees. Thanks to innovations in technology, anyone with a laptop, an Internet connection and a cell phone can do their job from pretty much anywhere. As a result, there is less pressure on individuals seeking career opportunities to physically reside in financial and industrial centers, like New York, Chicago, New Jersey, etc. They can choose to live where taxes are lower and the quality of life is better.

o Business is booming in “trendy” states – but so are home prices. Increased migration to southeast and central mountain states brings positive, and negative, side effects. On the one hand, companies – and jobs – often follow population; both the southeast and mountain states are benefitting from a jump in business and job growth. On the other hand, rapid growth can result in a lag in housing and infrastructure – leading to higher prices on existing homes and increase in traffic congestion. Companies that are considering opening offices in these popular areas to capitalize on talent should keep an eye on the impact such rapid growth has on quality of life. According to a recent AMSA (American Moving & Storage Association) survey, the states with the highest influx of residents are North and South Carolina, Florida, Idaho, and Texas. 

o Tax reform has eliminated some state and local tax deductions. This means high tax jurisdictions are feeling the pressure. States such as California, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, and Indiana are among the top 10 states losing residents, a multi-year trend for most of these states that shows little sign of reversing. . Transferees or new hires may fight moving to one of these areas due to high taxes and a higher cost of living or expect a better “package” and salary for moving into these markets. Currently, some states have decided not to follow the federal government’s guidelines for writing off or claiming relocation deductions. These include: Virginia, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Iowa, Hawaii, and Arizona. (Click here for the latest tax reform update.)

o According to northAmerican research, the list of the most affordable places to live does not necessarily overlap with the list of best cities to find a job. That means the best jobs are not always in the least expensive places to live. Currently, the three best towns to find a job are San Jose, CA; Odessa, TX; and Charleston, SC. And three of the most affordable cities to live in are Huntsville, AL; Fort Wayne, IN; and Des Moines, IA.

Where and Why People Are Moving
There’s no place like home, but depending on what you’re looking for, “home” can mean different things to different people. For the past several years, Idaho, North and South Carolina, Florida, and Texas have been the most popular moving destinations. But why these states and not others?

Low Cost of Living
A recent study found that Idaho, for example, has the 15th lowest cost of living in the country. The other popular states are equally low. Housing costs are modest, as well as food and transportation prices. Many people keep their monthly budget under control by biking to work, growing vegetable gardens, or enjoying inexpensive outdoor recreational activities.

High Quality of Life
Every fast-growing state offers hidden gems to its residents - whether it’s great weather, beautiful natural scenery, or free and fun family recreation. Combined with a low cost of living, these states are perfect for raising children, enjoying retirement, or starting a career.

Afraid to walk outside at night? These popular states have some of the lowest crime rates in the country. US News ranked Idaho as the fifth safest; the other states were all in the top 10.

Less Time Commuting
Compared to cities such as Atlanta, Los Angeles, or Chicago with hour+ long commutes, the larger cities in these top states have average commute times of about 20 minutes. That’s a lot better than an hour or two each direction. Consider the amount of time saved every day as well as the savings in gasoline, parking fees, and automobile wear and tear. While certain cities in Texas and Florida have some congestion issues, it would appear that lifestyle trumps any commuting challenges.

Flexibility is Vital
As careers become more flexible, where an employee lives is getting less and less important. There are contract jobs, remote work, online businesses, and telecommuting that doesn’t require anyone to go to a physical office. This, of course, impacts where employees choose to live and how they work. An employee can take advantage of a state with a low cost of living and the lifestyle they want (i.e., mountains, water, the desert), while working for a business in a completely different city, such as New York. While no place is perfect, employees, especially younger Generation Xers and Millennials, are taking time to do their research, decide where they want to live, and then find a job - not the other way around.

This is a challenging time for business. Changes in allowable tax deductions brought about by tax reform may require a complete overhaul and comprehensive review of your existing corporate mobility and relocation benefits package. For help with recruiting new hires and assisting your transferees to make the most of their moving experiences, click here to talk with a relocation specialist today.

Categories: Corporate