The lift in the U.S. economy and housing market apparently has led to an uptick in the number of households moving around the country — and that might not be all good for Husker land.
At least one major moving company ranks Nebraska as one of its top three exporting states in 2012, meaning a relatively high percentage of households left rather than entered as the rest of the country catches up in job growth.
That's troubling to Omaha demographer David Drozd, who has been concerned especially about local baby boomers heading off to sunnier spots.
“The trend is not good,” Drozd said, adding that the ranking by Atlas Van Lines could be an indicator that Nebraska's “glory days” of good migration figures the last few years could be coming to an end.
He said that, historically, Nebraska loses population when the national unemployment rate drops closer to Nebraska's low rate. Outside job seekers aren't as attracted by the state's relatively stronger business climate, and those living here are tempted by opportunities elsewhere.
Drozd comments came after a report by the American Moving & Storage Association, which showed a 5.4 percent increase in nationwide household moves the first two months of this year, compared with last. For the same period a year earlier, the increase over the previous year was 2.9 percent.
The association's report was based on data from the nine largest moving companies. One of the nine, Atlas, said that in Nebraska, 59 percent of the company's household shipments left the state while the rest entered.
Combined data from all nine companies put Nebraska at closer to the middle of the pack, yet Nebraska still was defined as an “outbound” state where more household goods shipments left (52 percent) than entered.
Likewise, the Omaha and Council Bluffs metro area was outbound, also with 52 percent of its moves going out.
Moving activity in and out of both the Omaha metro and the state was up by 2 percent in 2012 compared with the year before, the association's spokesperson said.
The uptick sparked Omaha's I-Go Van and Storage Co. to hire a few more workers, said co-owner Brian Nogg. In addition, he said, several packers cross-trained to obtain their commercial driving license, enabling them to go on the road when needed.
Nogg said past experience tells him that an improving economy signals more business.
“We saw business coming and we knew we'd need more customer service staff for the clients,” he said.
About half the households that I-Go Van and Storage moved across state lines were coming into Nebraska, the other half was going out.
Drozd views data from Atlas Van Lines as more of an indicator of moves by older people, possibly retired or nearing retirement. He said college students and young workers relocating don't typically need a van line.
According to Atlas, 503 of its 860 (or 59 percent) of its Nebraska-related moves were to other states. Wyoming also was 59 percent outbound. New York was ranked third, with 58 percent outbound.
While troubled by the Nebraska showing, Drozd noted that longer-term Atlas data reveal that the share of outbound households for Nebraska is not as high as in the late 1990s or early 2000s.
Census figures, which offer a different way of looking at people moving in and out, show the Nebraska exodus lessening. The average loss of individuals to other states in 2001 through 2009 was about 4,400 a year, Drozd said. The loss was 1,800 between 2010 and 2011, and about 1,000 from 2011 to 2012.
“We'd like to see it pop to the positive side,” said Drozd, of the University of Nebraska at Omaha's Center for Public Affairs Research. “But there was less of an outmigration domestically than what we typically see.”
Mayflower Transit, another major moving company, commissioned a consumer survey after it noticed an unusual 16 percent rise in first quarter interstate moves compared with the same period last year, spokeswoman Melissa Sullivan said.
“We haven't seen real increases since the recession started,” Sullivan said. “So an increase of this size got our attention.”
Among the survey findings:
• While the average respondent has moved six times throughout four different cities as an adult, nearly half, 49 percent, put off moving over the past four years since the housing bubble burst.
• The biggest reasons cited by those who delayed a move were economic instability and the declining real estate market.
• One in three respondents anticipated moving in the next year. Millennials, those between ages 18 and 34, were the most likely to consider moving.
• About half of overall respondents, 47 percent, said they'd be more comfortable buying a house today than in the past five years.
• Half of adults over age 65 would consider moving in the next year because of retirement.
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