NAR Report: Where People Moved in 2022
Nadia Evangelou | January 30, 2023
Although the population continues to increase, fewer Americans decided to move in 2022. After a historically low moving rate in 2021, data indicates that even fewer Americans moved across the country last year. However, this is not a new trend. Millions of people moved during the pandemic, driven by the opportunity to work remotely, the desire for more space, and better affordability.
Nevertheless, the moving rate has declined for the last six years. While the Census Bureau hasn’t yet released the moving rate for 2022, another source of migration data—the United States Postal Service change-of-address data—demonstrates a persistent declining migration trend for 2022 as well. Nearly 70% of the ZIP codes across the United States experienced fewer inbound moves in 2022 compared to 2021.
2022 Domestic Net Migration by State
The U.S. Census Bureau recently released the net domestic migration—the number of people moving in and out of an area—for each state in 2022. Twenty-six states experienced an influx of people, with more people moving in than out, while 25 states lost movers. Florida (318,855), Texas (230,961), and the Carolinas—North Carolina (99,796) and South Carolina (84,030)—were the states with the most net domestic migration gains in 2022. Positive net domestic migration and positive net international migration significantly boosted population growth in these areas. Florida was the fastest-growing state in 2022, with an annual population increase of 1.9% within a year. In fact, that was the first time since 1957 that Florida’s population grew faster than anywhere else across the United States. With most of these fast-growing areas located in the South, this region continues to be the most populous region, with nearly 130 million residents.
However, California (-343,230), New York (-299,557), and Illinois (-141,656) experienced the largest net domestic outmigration. As a result, the population dropped even further in these states. Despite this decrease, California remained the most populous state, with nearly 39 million residents statewide.
2022 Domestic Net Migration by Metro Area
Looking at the local level, remember that while the Census doesn’t yet provide any information for 2022, the current study uses the USPS change-of-address data to identify the local migration trends. Since people who want to forward their mail from their old homes to their new residences file a change of address request to the USPS, this dataset is a good proxy for how and where many people are moving. The current analysis covers relocations by ZIP code across the United States during 2022.
Most areas that experienced the largest influx of people were in Florida, Texas, and the Carolinas. Ocala, FL; Tallahassee, FL; Charlotte, NC; Savannah, GA; Houston, TX; Deltona, FL and Myrtle Beach, SC were some large areas1 where inbound exceeded outbound moves by more than six percentage points. For example, the inbound move rate was nearly 57% on average in the Charlotte metro area.
A common characteristic of these populous areas, in addition to the fact that they are located in the Sun Belt region, was a robust job market recovery after the pandemic. Among the top 10 large areas with the highest inbound move rates, not only was their economy able to recover all the jobs that were lost at the beginning of the pandemic, but there are about 5% on average more jobs now than in March 2020 in these areas. Compared to the national level, the job market recovery after the pandemic has been more than twice as fast as nationwide in these areas. There are about 6% more jobs in the Deltona metro area now compared to March 2020, while the inbound move rate was nearly 56%. Respectively, employment has increased about six percentage points since the pre-pandemic in the Charlotte metro area.
On the flip side, big city centers such as New York, San Francisco, and Chicago continued to lose movers. Although more people are returning to these areas as employers demand a return to the office, outbound still outpace inbound moves in these large areas. While affordability hit record lows in 2022, it is the primary reason that people continue to relocate from these big city centers to less dense and more affordable areas. Nevertheless, according to the USPS data, Los Angeles, San Jose, and Washington, DC experienced migration gains.
Migration Before and After the Pandemic
Compared to pre-pandemic, the Miami metro area experienced the largest inbound gains across the country. Inbound moves increased by nearly 60% in 2022 compared to 2019 in this area. Following in the list of the areas with the most inbound gains in 2022 were: Scranton, PA (45%), Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI (41%), Colorado Springs, CO (36%), and Cleveland, OH (31%). While many people continue to move out from big city centers, many areas with the most inbound gains compared to pre-pandemic regions are located near these big city centers. For example, Scranton, PA, is a couple of hours away from New York City. Even though the New York metro area also experienced inbound gains in 2022 compared to pre-pandemic, this area continues to have migration losses as more people moved out than in.
What is Different Now vs. Before the Pandemic
While housing is the main reason people move, data shows that housing-related moves rose even further due to the pandemic. For example, 46% of the moves were made for housing-related reasons in 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This is an increase of six percentage points from the previous year. Based on the data, this increase was primarily due to people looking for a better neighborhood, cheaper housing and the desire for a newer/better/larger home. With the pandemic changing buyers’ preferences, these migration trends only go one way and affect every area’s demographics.