- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 30, 2019

America’s 10 fastest growing regions are all in Southern and Western cities and states, where nonmanufacturing jobs and affordable housing abound.

Decadeslong migration from the industrial, crowded Northeast slowed significantly after the 2008 financial crisis, but economists say the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest estimates show that it’s back in full swing.

Census demographers say the latest population snapshot before the official 2020 head count shows that residents in the Northeast seeking warmer climes and Californians seeking less expensive lifestyles are migrating to smaller cities.

“Phoenix, Seattle, Austin and Orlando all experienced numeric increases in population since 2010, rivaling growth in areas with much larger populations,” Census Bureau demographer Sandra Johnson said. “This trend is consistent with the overall growth we are seeing in the South and the West.”

This migration reflects the evolution of the country’s workforce from manufacturing and agriculture to services including financing, media, transportation and technology in the information age, economists say.

According to the Washington-based Coalition of Services Industries, services-related work now accounts for 67% of America’s gross domestic product.

Jed Kolko, chief economist of the job listings website Indeed.com, said the economic trend has accompanied a migration shift that once was “from rural to metropolitan” but now is “metropolitan to suburban,” where houses are more affordable.

“As the United States has gotten richer, people have wanted larger houses,” Mr. Kolko said. “This long-term trend slowed after the housing crisis and almost looked like it was reversing in 2011, but it has returned and is now in full swing.”

Nowhere was growth higher last year than in Texas, which had three of the 10 metropolitan areas that gained the most people from 2017 to 2018.

Texas State Demographer Lloyd Potter said his state’s “economy is continuing to expand and create economic opportunities” because of a less restrictive regulatory environment, affordable housing and good public education.

From April 2010 to July 2018, the Lone Star State grew by more than 3.5 million residents.

Property development analysts, however, have noted growing pains in Texas, where about one-third of mostly rural counties lost residents to more prosperous urban and suburban areas.

Meanwhile, the major metropolitan areas of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles lost population, according to the estimates.

But Orlando and Tampa, Florida, which were both in the top 10 in terms of gains, highlighted the trend of smaller cities picking up residents.

Leonard Kiefer, deputy chief economist at Freddie Mac, said western and central Florida are fertile ground for the growing services sector and affordable housing stock.

“You have a population continuing to retire from the Northeast who arrive constantly in Florida and create more hospitality and leisure sector work,” said Mr. Kiefer, who recently traveled from Washington to the Sunshine State to gather with its association of real estate agents for research.

Since 2010, Orlando’s population has increased by 20% and central Florida ranks as the nation’s top spot for job growth, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Orlando also has more than $10 billion of infrastructure projects underway and nearly $1 billion in development in its downtown area, according to local media.

“The longest-term trend is air conditioning,” Mr. Kiefer said. “For generations, people have moved to places in the South and West that were previously inhospitable. If you uninvented air conditioning, you would not see population growth in these places.”

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