The Brookings Institution, The New York Times, and Bloomberg all covered the news that Texas added more people than any other state between July of 2008 and this past July, 479,000 according to the Census Bureau. The Brookings analysts suggested that a shift of population migration to places such as California and Florida has slowed because the advantage of living in warm weather has been trumped by high unemployment. That argument does not apply to many retirees who still want to be in the sunshine, although more of them are going back to work because their savings were eroded in the market downturn. The states with the highest increases, on a percentage basis, of new people were Wyoming and Utah. It is easy to say that the percentages are high because both states are nearly uninhabited, but each also has low unemployment rates.
The census data show that Michigan, Rhode Island, and Maine were the only states to lose people over the year that ended in July. Michigan and Rhode Island lead the list of states with the highest unemployment rates, so people are clearly leaving to find jobs.
Texas has been a land of promise since Sam Houston took it from the Mexicans in 1836 and formed the Republic of Texas. Texas became a state nine years later, though it is not clear that joining the United States was a good idea. Texas had enough natural resources and manufacturing capacity to remain independent. Texans today have to pay federal income taxes and social security. The state has enough oil to support the medical and social safety net needs of its population without the US government. There is nothing that can be done about that now.
The increase in population in Texas was followed by California with 381,000 new residents, North Carolina with 134,000 and Georgia, which added 131,000 people. Fewer people may be going to the Sun Belt but the population is aging fast enough that the temptation to move out of the Snow Belt will never be entirely extinguished.
The census claims that California remained the most populous state with a July 1, 2009 with 37 million residents. The rest of the top five states were Texas (24.8 million), New York (19.5 million), Florida (18.5 million) and Illinois (12.9 million).
Bloomberg may have the best argument about why the population of Texas is growing. It reports that “the state added more jobs than any other in November and October, on a month-over-month basis.” The total for the two months was 70,000.
The jobs argument is compelling but insufficient. It is difficult for people to know where they will find work before they find it. People who move to Texas expecting to find work are guessing in most cases. It is likely most of the individuals who come to the state do not already have firm jobs offers. The state would be flooded with people if word got out that all the job seekers who have gone to Texas had guaranteed employment before they moved.
The reasons for the increased number of people who relocated to Texas are probably simple. The state is large geographically which means that there are a substantial number of pockets of opportunity and industries that might offer employment. AT&T (NYSE:T) is headquartered in Dallas. American Airlines (NYSE:AMR) is based in Fort Worth. Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) is in the Austin area. Exxon (NYSE:XOM) is in Irving. Fortune claims that more of the 500 largest companies in America are headquartered in Texas than any other state. No one may be guaranteeing jobs, but no state can claim such a diverse base of employers. Texas also has several of the largest cities in the US although most people would not guess that. Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston are large population centers, but San Antonio is bigger than Dallas. Austin and El Paso are among the twenty-five most populous cities in the country.
People are moving to Texas not because they have jobs, but because they think that they can find them. In all of those cities and towns, large corporations, oil field and technology centers, there has to be work for many of America’s unemployed.
Douglas A. McIntyre