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California’s net population outflow by van line shrinks 21%

California again had more outs than ins via major moving companies last year, but that gap shrank 21 percent as departures fell faster than arrivals.

My trusty spreadsheet — filled with annual state-by-state migration stats from United, Allied and Atlas van lines — shows a continuation of the long-running decline in people moving, in or out of California, with exits slightly outnumbering arrivals. Van lines moves, which tend to be pricey relocations, are seen as a yardstick of executive-level opportunities and a state’s desirability to higher-income residents.

A region’s population growth does create broader societal challenges, but it’s also essential for healthy real estate markets, successful retailing and boosting the next generation of local workers. Relocations are not the only population booster, and moving is not a popular thing to do these days.

The three lines moved 48,110 households in 2018 in or out of California vs. 52,323 in 2017 — that’s an 8.1 percent dip. Last year’s van moves were 15 percent less than the 2008-2017 average and 43 percent below the last boom era of 2006-07 — or was that a bubble?

California’s high cost of living has zapped the appeal to fellow Americans and cooled the rate of inbound moves.

Households used these three van lines to come to the state a combined 22,492 times last year vs. 24,179 in 2017 — down 7 percent. Last year’s pace is a continuation of declining arrivals as it’s 21 percent below the 2008-17 average. It’s also down 44 percent from last decade’s economic peak — a bubble to many — a trend I’m not sure is good or bad.

Departures are muted, too, as 25,618 outbound moves were made in 2018 vs. 28,144 in 2017 — down 9 percent. That may speak to a business climate that’s generating good times for folks making serious money.

But exits by van line have not dropped as much as newcomers. Last year’s pace is only 8.2 percent below the 2008-17 average. Again, it’s way below the 2006-07 insanity: off 42 percent!

These trends add up to “net outmigration” — that’s more outs than ins — of 3,126 in ’18. Yes, the state has an outflow issue but 2018 was an improvement over 2017’s 3,965 net loss. Still, recent exit patterns are a noteworthy reversal from the modest net IN-MIGRATION previously. Yes, an average 625 more folks came per year than left in 2008-17. Yet amid the last boom/bubble, the state averaged a net outflow of 3,907 in 2006-07.

Moving van data is a barometer that’s best used as a gauge of California’s allure for the affluent. Folks in financial trouble don’t leave the state — or come here — using van-line services.

Recent van-line relocation trends, however, suggest that at a minimum the state’s high cost of living is limiting its population growth potential. That’s a headache in an era where relocations aren’t very popular no matter what direction they’re going.

But is this a serious outflow?

Well, take a big-picture view and you see the ins and outs all-but washed each other out since 2006. California had 387,996 inbound van moves and 392,682 departures. That’s a mere net loss of 4,686 households by van line, or 360 a year.

Clearly not a mass exodus in a state with 13 million households. Nor is it anything to cheer about.

Source: Orange County Register

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