The states people are fleeing in 2014

The migrations reflect shifts in the economy and the hit to employment resulting from the slow recovery.

By Forbes Digital Feb 13, 2014 10:00AM
Movers © Colin Hawkins/cultura/CorbisBy Susan Adams, Forbes Forbes

More people are moving out of New Jersey than are moving in. The same is true for Illinois and New York. Those three states top the "outbound" list compiled by United Van Lines, the big St. Louis-based moving company that has put together an annual survey of where Americans are moving for the last 37 years.

The company analyzed a total of 125,000 moves across the 48 continental states and the District of Columbia in 2013 and came up with a picture of migration patterns across the U.S.

According to Professor Michael Stoll, chair of the Department of Public Policy at the University of California Los Angeles and a consultant to United Van Lines who studies American migration, the moves reflect long-term shifts in the U.S. economy and the hit to employment in many states resulting from the slow recovery.

Of the top nine states where more people moved out than moved in, four are in the Northeast: In addition to New Jersey and New York, Connecticut (No. 5) and Massachusetts (No. 8) make the list. The list also reflects Americans’ desire to leave the frigid states in the north for warmer climes. "Over the last 20-30 years there has been a general shift of the population from the Midwest and Northeast to the South and West, which we think of as a move from the frost belt to the sun belt," Stoll says.
New Jersey has been stuck at the top of the outbound list for three of the past four years. Some 64 percent more people moved out than moved in. The Great Recession hit the state especially hard, Stoll says, accelerating a longtime shift of manufacturing  to the southern states, away from the Northeast.

"New Jersey has been reliant for many decades on manufacturing and industry," he says. "It's been slow to adapt to new economies where most of the job gains are being found, like technology." Also because the northern part of the state is tied to the economy of the New York City metropolitan area, housing prices tend to run high in response to demand. Income and property taxes are also high in the state, though Stoll says it’s not clear that taxes prompt people to move, since low-income-tax states typically have higher property taxes and higher sales tax.

It's no surprise that people are leaving New York. The average rental price in the city for a one-bedroom, excluding Staten Island, is $3,000, according to a recent Daily News report, more than three times the national average of $1,100. Despite the post-recession recovery of the financial industry and the tech jobs created by Silicon Alley, it's still a stretch for many people to afford their rent, though of course Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to change all that.

Illinois, No. 2 on the list, with 61 percent more people moving out than in, has a depressing story to tell. Stoll says that over time the state has lost a third of its manufacturing jobs and a quarter of its jobs in construction, and a significant proportion of its unemployed have been out of work for the long term, so the real employment rate there is much higher than the relatively high official figure of 8.9 percent suggests. The Labor Department stops counting people as unemployed when they have given up looking for work or they take a part-time job that doesn't pay the rent.

A few states on the moving-out list that mystify Stoll: West Virginia at No. 4 (60 percent more moved out) Utah at No. 6, (58 percent), and Kentucky at No. 7 (56 percent). "There are very big question marks about why people are leaving these states," he says, since housing prices are stable, the economy is diversified and wasn’t hit as hard as in the Northeast and Midwest. "This could be a one-year blip," he says.

Another surprising state on the top 10: New Mexico, where the climate is good, economic growth has been stable to strong, housing prices are reasonable and there are plenty of great outdoor activities, including skiing and hiking and beautiful topography. But Stoll says that the government sequester likely dealt a blow to jobs in New Mexico, since three of the largest federal-fund-reliant national laboratories are there, including Los Alamos. "There has been a tremendous loss in federal employment with the freezing and cutting of the federal budget," he notes.

Where are all the fleeing people moving? Oregon is at the top of the moving-in list, with 61 percent more coming than going. Stoll chalks this up in part to folks leaving the more populous neighboring state of California, where housing costs are relatively high. "Oregon is gaining both older and younger people," he says.

But the data on employment for young people is not great. Unemployment in the state is 7.7 percent, more than a point higher than the national rate of 6.6 percent. But in California the rate is even higher at 8.7 percent. Also people just see Oregon as cool. "It has walkable neighborhoods, public transit, cool places to eat," he notes. "It's a big magnet for young people who want that kind of lifestyle."

What will 2014 bring in terms of migration? Stoll predicts that New Mexico will move off of the out-migration list and despite its perpetual water problems and current drastic drought, more people will move to the Golden State. Though California was beset with rafts of foreclosures, Stoll believes it is on an upward trajectory.

"The California economy is recovering fairly quickly," he says. "The cost of living is high but jobs pay well there. Expect it to move up."

More on Forbes
Feb 13, 2014 10:57AM
California will grow alright, the democrats welcome the illegals with open arms. But there will be fewer taxpayers supporting the liberal agenda.
Feb 13, 2014 11:25AM
Go figure.....people leaving blue states with high taxation and over regulation.  When will the clueless get a clue?
Feb 13, 2014 11:53AM
At last. Now we finally know the real reason for the lane closures on the GWB. To keep people from fleeing the state...
Feb 13, 2014 11:03AM
Moving out of New York as soon as I can retire. Our politicians are forcing me out. Can hardly afford to live here while I'm working. If it wasn't for family, that I do not want to uproot, I'd be gone.
Feb 13, 2014 2:08PM
Funny how states with higher taxes and governors trying to rule every aspect of someone's life is causing people to flee to other states.  Guess all those taxes and new laws are working so well.
Feb 13, 2014 11:36AM

Predictable- largely welfare states with high taxes, oppressive and corrupt governments. If you conect the dots over time, you see a pattern developing where companies steathily build new facilities in human frendly states where  education and hard work are rewarded and slackers are less likely to scam the system due to close scrutiny to weed out these parastes. Even financial services are creeping out of NYC by setting up satellite offices in business friendly states - it is no random occurance that Amazon, Caterpillar, GE, GM,  have and  now Apple is considering new faciities in TX.

As far as the claim the North,East and West are sustainable is absurd. A 30 day interruption in energy supplies and their byproducts from TX ad LA would collapse these areas.

GOD BLESS TEXAS and other sates that champion the individual. 

I never could figure out why all those people cram into NYC and Jersey and live in small apts in high rise bldgs...

Dont they know there is a lot MORE LAND west of there??

Feb 13, 2014 12:04PM
Cold miserable winters, high unemployment, and high taxes?  Or go south and enjoy a nice climate, low taxes, and job opportunities.
Feb 13, 2014 2:26PM
Unless people are working in California's Silicon Valley, I don't see how anyone can afford to live there.  A crappy 2-bedroom stucco home from the 1920's can run over $800,000.   San Francisco's skyrocketing rents are forcing it's citizens to go elsewhere.
Half the mayors in NJ were just convicted of fraud and bribery...The Dems cant stay in office without bribes and payoffs.  New Orleans former mayor Ray Nagin is a perfect example...Pitiful leadership during a convicted FELON!...Welcome to the New Order of Obama and the Dems.
Feb 13, 2014 12:46PM

If anyone thinks the exodus from oppressive states wil slow, Dallas FT Worth has over 20,000 apartments currently under construction,Add other TX metro areas, single family construction , retail, medical facilities, schools, then tell me TX is on the wrong path.

By the way, over 25% of ALL the active drilling rigs in the WORLD are operatng in TX.

Feb 13, 2014 12:00PM
People, like money, go where treated best.
Feb 13, 2014 11:55AM

Underemployment trumps NO EMPLOYMENT any day. Apparently you know nothing about the wage scale of the manufacturing entities in southern and Southwest states. A high school graduate can make $80,000 as a truck driver in the oil patch in Texas.

VL, you must be on the public doie in some way and see your source of support eroding as tax paying companies and people leave your state.

Dont worry. According to the current admin, you can soon choose to not work and persue your dreams. Fact is, most of the pepole adopting this path are indulging in FANTASY. 

Feb 13, 2014 2:18PM
Of course United Van Lines wouldn't have any moving data on all the illegals coming to California from Mexico with just a backpack!
Feb 13, 2014 12:34PM


The way povety rates are calculated by the government are bogus. At best, a snapshot at a particular point in time.Studies reveal that after 10 years only 30% or less in states where opporunity abounds, like TX,  are the same people from the 10 year old data Many get educations, develop marketable skills, learn english and move toward middle class status.

A huge % of those that remain mired in poverty are immigrants that refuse to learn english and assimilate into our society.

UNIVERSAL LAW- if you dont do the work, you cant have the prize..

Feb 13, 2014 2:23PM
I'm not surprised people are moving out of NJ.  They don't call it the garbage state for nothing.
Feb 13, 2014 2:47PM
Come on down to Sweet Home Alabama where the skies are blue and the climate is better too...except for here lately, that is...retirees don't have to pay state income taxes and the real estate is much cheaper too.
Feb 13, 2014 11:40AM
V_L's neighbors want to move anywhere else.
Feb 13, 2014 12:04PM
V L should change prescriptions, if he has prescripts for what he is taking.
Feb 13, 2014 12:17PM
Where is Bent the DNC Parishioner on this subject?
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