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Thursday, March 19, 2009

"People are Hanging Tight"

The end of the great migration:

U.S. Migration Falls Sharply, by Conor Dougherty, WSJ: Migration around the U.S. slowed to a crawl last year ... as a weak housing market and job insecurity forced many Americans to stay put.

Demographers say the dropoff in migration, shown in Census data to be released Thursday, is among the sharpest since the Great Depression. It marks the end of what Brookings Institution demographer William Frey calls a "migration bubble."

As asset values rose fairly steadily in the past decade, Americans young and old moved around the country in search of jobs or better weather. In many cases, people living in higher-cost housing markets such as San Francisco and New York cashed in their real-estate winnings and moved to outlying counties, or to states like Florida and Nevada, hoping to find a cheaper house and pocket the difference. Now, "people are hanging tight; they're too scared to do anything," said Mr. Frey. ...

Migration typically slows during recessions. But in past downturns, the slowdown has been more regional in scope, with workers fleeing weaker job markets for places where companies were still hiring. ... What's unique this time is migration has slowed almost everywhere. The sharpest year-to-year changes were among what demographers call "domestic migrants," people who moved within the U.S. ... The Census data show that the biggest falloffs were in the worst housing markets. ...

Having a key resource - labor - largely frozen in place doesn't help the economy at all. People are in no mood to take risks by moving to a new job, they probably can't find a job anyway, and if they do, will they be able to sell their house? And if all that goes right, they find a job, it's a good enough opportunity to be a risk they're willing to take, and they found a buyer for their house, will the loan be so far underwater that they can't afford to sell it?

    Posted by on Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 12:33 AM in Economics, Housing, Unemployment | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (8)


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