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Recession alters boomer migration

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Forget Naples, Fla. or Scottsdale, Ariz. for your next satellite office. Lubbock, Texas might be a better fit. A recent Wall Street Journal story finds the recession has had a profound effect on migration patterns in the U.S., reversing the flow of people to former housing-boom states such as Florida and Nevada, the latest data from the Census Bureau show.

According to the Journal, in the year ending July 1, 2009, Florida — once the top draw for Americans in search of work and warmer climes — lost more than 31,000 residents to other states, the Census Bureau reported. Nevada lost nearly 4,000. The numbers are small compared with the states’ populations, but they reflect a significant change in direction: In the year ending July 2006, Florida and Nevada attracted net inflows 141,448 and 41,640 people, respectively.

“The recession coupled with the mortgage meltdown stopped the dominant migration story of the last decade in its tracks,” William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, told the paper. “The real question is when the Sunbelt states are going to be able to come back. These new numbers suggest no end in sight.”

The census data provide the starkest illustration yet of a shift that began after the peak of the housing boom in 2006. The paper reports it found that each year, the movement of people from states in the Northeast and Midwest such as New York, New Jersey and Michigan to job-producing states in the Sunbelt and West has lost momentum as house prices have fallen and jobs have disappeared.

The exception amid the Sunbelt states is Texas, which has managed to avoid much of the housing malaise and unemployment that have plagued other states, the Journal found. In the year ending July 2009, Texas gained 143,423 more residents from other states than it lost, making it the nation’s biggest draw for the fourth year in a row.

“With no income tax and relatively inexpensive housing, Texas has attracted both entrepreneurs and large corporations. The bank Comerica Inc. moved its headquarters from Detroit to Dallas in late 2007, and BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion opened its U.S. headquarters in Texas soon thereafter. Surging energy prices in early 2008 helped the state’s oil industry, and the state’s large medical centers have provided stable employment.”


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