In a recovering economy, things can change in the blink of an eye.[find-an-apartment]
Just a few short months ago, the United States Census Bureau released data showing that Americans were on the move: moving to find cheaper housing and to relocate for new jobs. The data indicated a promising trend that made it seem like the housing market was in full-swing recovery.
But now it appears as if Americans aren’t quite as confident as they were even a few months ago. The latest data suggests more Americans are staying put, likely thanks to a sluggish job market.
Promising Census data
U.S. Census data from 2012 indicated that Americans were indeed on the move. It was a slight reversal from moving trends during the Recession.
At the height of the Recession in 2010, mobility hit an all-time low as Americans hunkered down. There were fewer job-related moves than there had been in the past. And there were far fewer moves to find better, more attractive housing than there had been during the boom years that preceded the Recession. During this time period, it seemed the only reason Americans could be compelled to move was to find cheaper housing.
But, according to Bloomberg analysis, 2012 Census data showed a tentatively promising reversal: a 1.1 percent uptick in moves. In 2012, almost 17 million people moved between counties. Of those 17 million moves, 7 percent were inter-state moves. Inter-state moves were up 5 percent since the 2010 low in mobility. It looked like Americans were on the move again and that the trend might continue.
The difference a year makes
But that was then. With 2013 coming to a close, we now have the latest U.S. Census data gathered from this year, and things have changed again. Despite rising in 2012, the percentage of people moving to a new apartment or home in 2013 dropped back down to near record-low levels. In comparison with the Recession years, moving trends indicate that, while more Americans are relocating for new jobs, fewer are moving to find cheaper housing.
Analysis of the new Census data by Trulia indicates that short distance moves (moves within the same county) were at an all-time low during 2013. A little more than 7 percent of Americans made a short-distance move in the past year. However, longer-distance moves (crossing state lines) did rebound a bit.
What it all means
A look at the reasons why people move helps explain the flip-flop in trends. We know why people move because the Census asks them to report that information. Respondents choose from a list of 19 reasons that include things like “family reasons,” “job reasons” or “wanted to own a home.”
There is a relationship between the distance a person moves and his reason for moving. When a person moves within the same county, it’s usually for housing reasons. But when a person moves a longer distance or crosses state lines, it’s typically to relocate for a new job. In fact, 32 percent of interstate moves are job-related.
When you compare moving distances with reasons, the reversal in moving trends starts to make more sense: job market recovery has been sluggish. Bloomberg news reports that job creation and new hires have slowed in recent years. The job market has had a serious effect on long-distance moves.
As for short-distance moves, they are often tied to prosperity. People tend to move short distances to find newer, or better, housing, or to become homeowners. With Americans still tentative about the economy, we’re likely to see fewer of these short-distance moves.
As the job market recovers, we should see an overall increase in mobility. It’s unclear, however, when we might return to the financial boom and easy mobility of pre-Recession times.
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