Jan 31, 2023 - Economy

Population drain persists in big cities

Inbound moving rate to major U.S. metros, 2022
Data: NAR analysis of USPS data; Chart: Axios Visuals

People aren't moving to big city centers like they used to, even as employers ramp up calls to return to the office.

Why it matters: Affordability is still drawing folks to less dense and cheaper areas, particularly those in the booming Sun Belt.

Driving the news: A new report from the National Association of Realtors showed that major metro areas like New York, San Francisco, and Chicago saw more people leaving than moving in.

  • Instead, people fled to cities in Florida, Texas, North Carolina and South Carolina.
  • The Miami metro area experienced the largest inbound increase from before the pandemic, which saw gains of nearly 60% in 2022 compared to 2019. Houston experienced the highest move-in rate for 2022.

What they're saying: "Pre-pandemic, we had a different trend. People wanted to move to big city centers," Nadia Evangelou, senior economist and director of real estate research at the National Association of Realtors, tells Axios.

  • More people are moving to those cities compared to 2021 but "we're not there yet," Evangelou says of metro areas regaining the population that fled.

Between the lines: Across the board, the report found, fewer people moved last year, continuing a trend from 2021.

  • The report analyzed the United States Postal Service’s change-of-address data to spot migration trends.
  • Nearly 70% of U.S. ZIP codes posted fewer inbound moves in 2022 compared to 2021, according to the data.
  • The slowdown has persisted as droves of people sought more space and cheaper cost of living during the pandemic.
Go deeper