When it comes to relocations, Georgia gets more than it gives

Georgia still seeing population growth fueled by in-migration of new residents, data show
Metro Atlanta ranked third in the nation for population growth last year, according to the Census Bureau. Year after year, more people have moved to Georgia than left. (AJC Staff Photo/Phil Skinner)

Metro Atlanta ranked third in the nation for population growth last year, according to the Census Bureau. Year after year, more people have moved to Georgia than left. (AJC Staff Photo/Phil Skinner)

Call up the movers, back up the truck, moving in, moving out, across town, across the river and cross country — it’s the American way of mobility.

But there’s a math to moving, each time a person or family swaps one home for another, they add to inflow in one place, outflow in another, and it’s usually not symmetrical. Some places grow, some shrink.

And the reasons vary, from economics — better jobs cheaper housing — to the embrace of better climate, the magnet of family, the comfort of culture and community, an agreeable turf for retirement.

So, for a smorgasbord of reasons, Georgia has been consistently on the plus side, the number of movers-in greater than the departures.

Last year, the state had the metro area with the third-largest growth in the nation (Atlanta) and the county with the country’s fourth-highest percentage growth (Jackson), according to recent calculations by the U.S. Census Bureau.

-- Metro Atlanta last year added 68,585 people, outgrown only by Dallas and Houston.

-- Jackson County, with a little less than 90,000 people, added 4,600, a growth pace of 5.5%.

An updated estimate for the state is expected within days from the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Last year’s ARC report showed the state growing in 2021 and 2022 by a total of about 128,000, four times what would have been its “natural growth,” that is, the number of births minus the number of deaths.

Many want to work, said Aysha Abdullatif, co-owner of Spherion Staffing in Dunwoody. “We have had people calling, saying they want to relocate. We are hearing from candidates in neighboring states as well as from rural areas.”

In many ways, Georgia’s revolving door is not unique, pulling people for a range of economic, cultural and personal reasons, including what is an apparent reversal of the “Great Migration” that sent so many Blacks north last century.

While some fear in-migration — whether from elsewhere in the country or from outside it — as competition for jobs, the recent influx comes at a time when some employers are struggling to find the workers they need.

Moreover, economists say new residents are both a symptom of the state’s economic expansion and a cause of it.

A growing economy has jobs to offer, which draws people. And as they come, they bring skills to bolster local productivity and spend money on their needs and desires, adding to the area’s consumer spending which in turn, adds to demand for goods and services which spurs more hiring.

Experts say the regions with the most dynamic economies have a lot of movement and the healthiest economies nearly always have more move-ins than move-outs.

Growth — whether tech, manufacturing or finance — begets the need for restaurant workers, teachers, accountants, construction workers and nurses, said Wayne Gearey, chief labor economist for Savills, a global property adviser. “There clearly is a domino effect on other industries, particularly on healthcare. You see a pressure on those kinds of services.”

Still, that is not always positive.

While the population of Georgia has boomed, the state has not built many new roads or the number of homes, schools or electric vehicle charging stations needed to match the surge.

Moving companies see trends in real time. And of the moves handled by United Van Lines involving Georgia in the past year, 53.7% were inbound, the company said.

Why do people come? It’s a mix, according to United’s survey of movers. Among newcomers, 29.9% said family was the main reason for the move, 28.4% said a job was the draw and 14.7% were coming for retirement, United said.

Atlanta remains the state’s biggest attraction when it comes to a home, and it also offers the broadest example of what drives growth.

For decades, jobs in metro Atlanta have been plentiful. And even though locals bemoan the increased cost of housing, homes here are still more affordable compared to many northern and West Coast metros, said broker Bruce Ailion of Re/Max Town & Country. “The metro area still has a cost advantage.”

For companies and families, the logistics are compelling: Atlanta has the world’s busiest airport with nonstop flights to more than 200 cities, Amtrak has connections west and north and a crisscross of highways.

But cultural factors are also important, Ailion said.

The region boasts major league sports, museums and a range of outdoor options, while enjoying a surge of different ethnicities, Ailion said. “If you are African American, Korean, Indian, Vietnamese, Russian, Mexican, South American, or whatever, you have a community here.”

Atlanta has historically been a destination for Blacks from around the South. And there’s also evidence, according to the Brookings Institution, that the “Great Migration” has reversed with many Blacks heading south.

Especially among young adults looking for new opportunities, Blacks are by far the largest group moving to the area, according to the ARC, representing 78% of movers.

“Almost all of the young adult in-migration that the Atlanta area has experienced since 2000 has come from movers of color,” according to an ARC report.

But much of the growth are other demographics and other age groups.

And the most common reason for coming was having just snagged a job here or been transferred here by an employer, said Miranda Marquit, chief data analyst for HireAHelper, which connects people to services that help them move.

Second-most common, was the desire or need to be with family, she said.

Economics came in third, according to HireAHelper, most commonly people who arrived looking for a job, followed by those in search of cheaper housing.

And while the stereotypical newby is a still-shivering Chicagoan, tax-crimped Californian or maybe a New Yorker stunned at low Atlanta rents, the most common new arrival is actually someone from a neighboring state.

Florida has been the source of more new Georgia residents than any other state, roughly twice as many as the number coming from second-place California and third-place Texas, , according to the Census Bureau.

New York was the third-most common starting point. Illinois placed 10th.

America has long been known as a mobile society with people commonly lighting out for far-off opportunities, and more than 12% of the population changes addresses in a year, the Census Bureau said.

Yet that mobility was steadily decining — a slowdown accelerated by the first two years of the pandemic.

That shifted in 2022 when more than 27 million American moved, up 4% from the year before, according to the Census Bureau. That’s the first time in a decade that the number of people moving had grown. That reversal coincides with ebb of the pandemic, which had made work-from-home a widely accepted notion.

While that was not the only factor shaping American mobility, it made a difference and may even foreshadow a trend, said Marquit of HireAHelper. “To some degree, remote work got people to think, ‘So I can work anywhere, I should move some place where I want to live.’”

States that sent the most* new Georgia residents

Florida: 51,380

California: 25,960

Texas: 23,754

N. Carolina: 23,175

Alabama: 21,031

Share of United Van Lines moves, 2022

Into Georgia: 53.7%

Out of Georgia: 46.3%

Age** of people using movers into Georgia

Up to 34: 15.9%

35 to 44: 15.1%

45 to 54: 19.0%

55 to 64: 22.1%

65 or older: 27.9%

Age* of people using movers out of Georgia

Up to 34: 16.9%

35 to 44: 16.9%

45 to 54: 20.2%

55 to 64: 19.7%

65 or older: 26.3%

Reasons* for coming to Georgia

Job: 35.8%

Family: 35.1%

Retirement: 17.9%

Lifestyle: 12.5%

Cost of living: 7.4%

Health: 6.1%

Reasons* for moving out of Georgia

Retirement: 18.9%

Health: 6.2%

Family: 27.4%

Lifestyle: 11.6%

Job: 44.0%

Cost of living: 2.3%

Population growth, 2022-2023

1. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX Metro Area 152,598

2. Houston-Pasadena-The Woodlands, TX Metro Area 139,789

3. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA Metro Area 68,585

4. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL Metro Area 54,916

5. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL Metro Area 51,622

6. Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC Metro Area 50,458

7. Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX Metro Area 50,105

8. Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, AZ Metro Area 49,240

9. San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX Metro Area 48,071

10. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL Metro Area 43,387

*Most recent state-to-state data

**Rounded off, may not total 100%

Sources: Census Bureau, Atlanta Regional Commission, HireAHelper, United Van Lines, U-Haul