A major decision point for thousands of people is moving their homes and businesses. Whether or not to “stay or go” is one of the most important choices that individuals make.
Why is it important to pay attention to US migration trends?
Large-scale migration shifts economic power and strength among the states.
Having knowledge about migration trends helps individuals and companies make strategic and well-informed decisions about where to invest their futures.
Recognizing migration trends takes time. In 2020 and 2021, the moving industry experienced short-term changes because of Covid. Yet, there are longer-term migration patterns that drive American consumers, regulatory environments and work-from-home opportunities.
For example, the media presents a mass exodus out of California and New York with people fleeing to Texas and Florida. Are these perceptions true or exaggerations? What other states are experiencing strong population shifts?
Having access to actual data always supersedes media perceptions. Key resources give credible insight. Data is now available from the 2020 United States Census – a thorough way to gain facts about national, state, city and local populations. Expert analysts will study its content for months and years to come.
At National Van Lines, US migration trends provide foundational information for our strategic and operational plans. We watch movement flows closely, so that we can best serve our customers.
In this paper, we share facts about:
Tim Helenthal, Chairman and CEO of National Van Lines shares, “Understanding migration patterns benefits our customers and industry partners. It’s important to know areas of growth and decline in the United States. We need to get at data early to understand the beginning of trends. When considering a move, customers want to know the areas where the demand for housing, jobs and government services are high.”
Which states are long-distance movers considering?
At National Van Lines, intent is tracked via website analytics. Customer visits on the national map are one indicator of future moving plans.
These analytics anticipate our customers’ desires or plans to move.
Seeing interest from web visitors, along with in-marketing attribution, paints a good picture of where our potential customers will come from. Tracking views also guides us on how to best reach them. The top 10 states with the most initial visits include:
There is consistency in the top ten for 2019 and 2020. The most notable changes are Massachusetts – jumping from the 4th slot in 2019 to the 2nd slot in 2020 and Texas – slipping to the 4th slot in 2020 from the 2nd slot.
The following states had the largest increase in individual views from 2019 to 2020. This data tells us that people coming from these specific states are exploring the possibility of a move.
There are three states that consistently received the least views for 2019 and 2020. It appears that people from these states may not be moving any time soon.
Every ten years, Congress is empowered by the Constitution to execute a population count of the United States. The goal of the census is to reapportion the 435 state seats in the United States House of Representatives.
The 2021 Vintage Population Estimate was released to the public on Dec. 21, 2021. This estimate of population measures changes each year until the next US Census.
The 2020 census data and 2021 Vintage Population Estimate gives interesting insight into US population changes.
The 2020 and 2021 data shares that the South and West are growing faster than the Northeast and Midwest.
The South’s numeric increase of 12.6 million was the largest of any region and represented just over one-half (54.7 percent) of the national increase of 23.1 million. The West’s increase of 6.7 million people was the second-largest, followed by the Midwest (up 1.9 million) and Northeast (up 1.8 million).
Idaho is the fastest-growing state with an 21.2% increase between 2010 and 2021, while West Virginia declined the most.
The early 2020 Census results immediately directed a shift in state representation in the House of Representatives. Due to population growth, six states will gain seats in the House: Texas, Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon. Seven states will lose House seats: California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
“Since 1940, the regional trend with apportionment has been an increase in the number of congressional seats for South and West and a loss of congressional seats for the North and Northeast and Midwest. More specifically since 1940 there has been a combined net shift of 84 seats to the South and West Regions.”
NWX-US Dept. of Commerce, Moderator Kristina Barrett, 4-26-21
More data analysis will be available in the coming months. This information is eagerly anticipated because of its implications for federal funding that will impact schools, transportation, roads, businesses and more.
In the year after the 2020 US Census was taken, population only grew by .1%, which was the lowest rate since the founding of this country, which is attributed to decreased fertility, decreased net international migration and increased mortality due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic.*
During the one year between July 1., 2020 and July 1, 2021:
- Idaho had the biggest growth increase–from 1,847,772 to 1,900,923, a growth of 2.9%. Utah and Montana were close behind, with 1.7% population growth increase for each.
- District of Columbia had the largest decline in population–2.9% down in a year. New York had a decline of 1.6% and Illinois had a 0.9% population decline in that year.
US Census Facts – Making History* **
- Total US Population is the largest ever – with more than 331,893,745 people.
- Since 2010 Census, US Population only grew 7.5%, which is the lowest growth percentage since the 1940 Census at 7.3%.
- Population growth in the Midwest has been declining since the 2000 Census.
- The South and West have consistently outgrown the population in the Northeast and Midwest for the last 100 years. The highest growth rate in the South and West this century was the 1910 Census survey followed by 1950 and 1960.
- The California Census shows that for the first time in 100 years the state dropped to single digit growth – with an all-time low of 5.3%.
- Illinois Census numbers show that for the first time in 100 years, the state has negative growth of -1.2%.
- West Virginia beat out Illinois with negative growth at -3.8%. West Virginia has seen negative growth numbers for four out of the last 12 Census surveys. North Dakota is the only other state that has had negative growth numbers for four out of the last 12 Census reports.
* From Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for the United States, Regions, States, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico: April 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021, The United States Census Bureau, January 10, 2022.
**From Historical Population Change Data (1910-2020), The United States Census Bureau, April 26, 2021
Driven by Covid, people are moving from high-density areas to low-density areas. This trend didn’t start in 2020, but was definitely enhanced by Covid. Specifically, there is a significant exodus out of California.
“As I connect with van line industry leaders on association committees and talk with competitors, I hear the same thing: everyone is experiencing a mass exodus out of California,” says Tim Helenthal, Chairman and CEO of National Van Lines. “California movers are filling in other parts of the country such as Texas, Nevada, Arizona and Upper Midwest states such as Idaho, North Dakota and South Dakota. Trends don’t happen in one year. It can take a generation of interstate moves to balance itself out.”
Another tendency is that the average length of customers move is declining. People are staying close to where they are originally from. The longest, cross-country moves have declined.
According to Mark Doyle, President of National Van Lines, “Of all Americans who move, 90% move less than 250 miles from where they currently live. This radius continues to shrink year after year. Working from home, people can move anywhere. Employers are in a position to not have to move new employees to centralized locations.”
Data proves predictable in the area of local moves. In 2015-2016, more than 63% of moves happened under 200 miles from a person’s original location. In 2019-2020, it was almost 65%. *
*US Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement 2003-2020, Table A-6
“As more local communities continue to go digital and develop, people have less need for seeking employment outside of their 100-mile radius. And so, local moving trends in 2019 have reached a new high, with a total of 45.5 % of moves being within 100 miles.” “Moving Trends & Relocation Industry Analysis,” Movers Development,
July 20, 2020
Although Covid 19 has opened the opportunity for people to work from home, surprisingly the virus is not the primary reason for moves. A National Van Lines 2020 customer survey shows that main reason for moves, from most to least, include:
Write-in comments awarded California the position of most mentioned state. Direct quotes from customers:
Our experience, as a national mover, lines up with the current media analysis. A mass exodus from California is well underway.
National Van Lines’ data is also consistent with US Census survey data. It shares that from 1999-2020 the largest percentage of moves happened because of housing-related reasons. The second reason was moves for family-related reasons – followed by employment-related reasons as third. *
* Reason for Move: 1999-2020, Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS ASEC), Table A-5
Migration trends help customers determine the positive or negatives about transitions to a new state. Considerations include:
“We encourage our customers to consider whether or not their desired locations can support higher population levels. If not, they may want to consider other strong alternatives. It takes time to build an infrastructure to support a large increase in population. For example, Austin, Texas is going through infrastructure growing pains now,” says Tim Helenthal, Chairman and CEO of National Van Lines.
For the moving industry, these trends affect operational strategies. Since cross-country moves have declined, driver recruitment is impacted. Moves, relegated to specific locations, such as Florida or Texas, result in a large number of trucks traveling to one location and/or region. This scenario puts a logistical strain on the industry.
In the past, drivers may be away from home weeks at a time. The current patterns set-up drivers to do shorter trips and potentially be at home more. Recruiting is happening in key states and regions. More regional opportunities open up for drivers. For local movers, shorter moves can mean a boom.
New truck driver skills are needed to meet industry changes.
“If current relocation trends continue, trainings and certifications that speak more towards low density, rural homes will become more useful than trainings for high density city moves. Technology is growing at a rapid pace so the ability to train employees for virtual surveys, communicate with customers remotely and provide great customer service from afar become more valuable. Companies that put the effort into training and certifying employees offer customers a peace of mind,“ says Katie McMichael, Director Moving and Storage Convention for the American Trucking Association.
Van lines want to ensure the appropriate agent representation.
Tim Helenthal, Chairman and CEO of National Van Lines shares, “For the moving industry, we have to be flexible. We have to be willing to change processes and goals to meet customer needs. We can’t rely on yesterday’s business model to support today’s demand. Processes must be reinvented.”
Any challenging time in the economy results in the need for cost cutting on the consumer’s part. Customers need to make the best choices when planning a move. When picking up the phone to call a mover, it’s important for a customer to understand that there are listed professional movers and moving brokers.
“Unlicensed rouge movers bring no value or assets to the industry. They take the customer off the marketplace while not being experts. Using freight trucks instead of moving trucks, they double delivery prices. Buyer be aware,” shares Mark Doyle, President, National Van Lines.
Critical questions customers need to ask a potential moving company include:
Knowing these facts save money, time and eliminates stress.
Moving industry leaders must pay careful attention to trends so that healthy competition and timely and productive services are available to moving customers across the country.
“Laborers are an integral part of every company and driver crew. The pandemic displaced many of these workers into new careers or opportunities. The moving industry is struggling to find and retain its employee base as business heats up,” says Katie McMichael, Director Moving and Storage Conference for the American Trucking Association. “Congress is also playing a part in industry challenges. Independent contractor drivers and labor are staples in our industry. The U.S. government is taking an interest in redefining with it means to be an independent contractor and how companies us them. This determination is happening at Federal and State levels, so companies need to prepare to comply with a myriad of standards and laws as the debate rages on.”
It’s clear that the changes in population migration between 2010 and 2021 were influenced by a number of factors, including economy, job opportunities and the Covid-19 pandemic. Seeing where Americans are going and why can help us determine how to serve our customers most effectively. As more data is collected and released, our analytics and tactics will adjust. National Van Lines will update this document as more information comes out.
National Van Lines, Inc. is a first-class van line that has been trusted by more than one million families for the last 90+ years. As a team of qualified professional movers, the National Van Lines’ team handles all types of moving projects from long distance moves to small relocations.
For more information on reasons to trust National Van Lines with your precious household items and business assets, visit our website at: https://www.nationalvanlines.com/about/why-choose-national-van-lines