Texas Is the Big Winner in Recession Migration

In the race for largest population growth over the last decade, Texas has won out over Florida. Prior to the recession, Florida was expected to be the biggest population gainer, but Texas' late addition of jobs helped it to pull ahead. Between July 2005 and July 2009, the Lone Star State added 648,600 nonfarm jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while the collapse of the construction industry cut jobs in the Sunshine State. More recently, as the recession took hold and people cut back on travel, Florida's service industry has lost jobs as well.%%DynaPub-Enhancement class="enhancement contentType-HTML Content fragmentId-1 payloadId-61603 alignment-right size-small"%% Florida wasn't the only state hit hard by the recession: Nevada and California have both seen more Americans move out than move in the the past few years, and growth has slowed substantially in Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina. But the bleeding seems to have stopped in some states -- like New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts -- which are holding on to more residents than they're losing.

Migration pattern changes likely have more to do with the slow economy than with the fact that people don't want to move. The sluggish real estate market may be a critical factor, as many homeowners are stuck in communities where there are no jobs and can't migrate to places where the job market is healthier. This can keep unemployment rates higher in some areas while making it harder for employers to find workers in others.

One of the key strengths of the U.S. economy has been the ability of people in search of jobs to move relatively easily from one community to the next. The economic downturn has essentially stalled this movement, as falling home prices and tighter credit are encouraging people to stay put.

Shifting Seats in Congress

Migration patterns also will likely impact the make-up of the House of Representatives. If the 2010 census confirms the preliminary numbers released by the Census Bureau this week, Texas will likely gain three seats in Congress. Texas added 231,539 people between July 2008 and July 2009 -- more than any other state.

States that gained population from 2001 to 2005 -- like Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington -- will likely gain one seat in the next census. Most of these states are in the Sunbelt, and they'll be taking seats from like Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Ohio Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, all of which have lost population in the last decade. Ohio is expected to lose two seats, while the others on the list are expected to lose one.

That means the states that tend to vote Democratic in the Northeast and Midwest will lose representatives while the more conservative Southern states will gain votes. But the shift in population is also bringing people who tend to be more liberal to places that are often more conservative, which could alter the political makeup of these Southern states. So, while Republican states like Texas may get larger representation in Congress, those representatives could be a little less conservative.
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