Number of Americans who are moving rises, buoying economy

ATLANTA — Danielle Anderson landed a promotion in June that required her to move from Southern California to Houston, where she bought a $280,000 town house. Since then, the 24-year-old sales and marketing manager has spent $8,000 on furnishings, hooked up cable television, and hired a gardener.

The number of Americans moving has started to increase from a record low, promising a lift to the labor-market recovery as well as housing and consumer spending. An estimated 12 percent of US residents moved in the year ended March 2012, up from a 63-year low of 11.6 percent the prior year, according to an analysis of unpublished Census Bureau data by the Population Reference Bureau, a Washington research organization. About 1.7 percent moved from one state to another, the most in five years, the data show.

Mobility adds flexibility to the labor market, allowing employers to fill positions more easily when skills may be in short supply. A lack of migration the past few years helps explain why 3.6 million jobs were unfilled in August — 719,000 more than in January 2009, when unemployment last matched September’s 7.8 percent, Labor Department data show.


‘‘Increased mobility will facilitate a quicker improvement in the job market, as the unemployed and underemployed can more easily move to where the jobs are,’’ said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pa.

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Migration is an ‘‘encouraging trend’’ for the labor market, James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, told reporters Oct. 15 after a speech. It has been a historical strength for the United States versus Europe, where moves are hampered by language differences, Bullard said.

People ages 25 to 29 are twice as likely to move as the total population. Yet even younger people aren’t as mobile as previous generations because the labor market is impaired: About 25 percent of people in this age group moved last year, down from 30 percent in 2001, Mather said.

Still, there are signs that more Americans are changing locations. Shipments handled by moving companies rose 1.5 percent in the first half of 2012 after a 1 percent gain in 2011, according to the American Moving & Storage Association.‘‘There is a pent-up demand’’ for moves, which is ‘‘obviously closely tied to housing,’’ spokesman John Bisney said.

Kristen Keese, 22, a marketing graduate from the University of South Florida in Tampa, moved to New York to take a job as a research analyst after a job search that included the Tampa area, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.


‘‘The fact I was willing to move anywhere for a company I wanted to work for or a job I loved, I think that is something a lot of companies are attracted to,’’ she said. ‘‘I am single. I am flexible. I am just getting into the corporate world.’’