The percentage of people who moved during the past year is the lowest since the U.S. Census Bureau began keeping records on the subject in 1948, the bureau reported Tuesday, an indication, says one national expert, of the impact of the economic downturn.
The bureau reported an estimated 11.6 percent of the nation's population moved between 2010 and 2011, the lowest percentage since 2008, when 11.9 percent moved. Census records show the "mobility rate" has been on a downward trajectory since 1985, when it was just above 20 percent.
William Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer who analyzed the census data, said the "historic lows" in the move rate over the past four years was largely due to the drop in long-distance migration, which hovered at 3.5 percent in 2010 and 2011.
The rate includes those moving within the same county, to a different county in the same state and to a different state.
Among people who moved long distances -- more than 500 miles -- it was most likely for employment-related reasons -- cited by nearly 44 percent, according to census statistics. Among those who moved less than 50 miles, it was most likely for housing-related reasons, cited by 40 percent.
"Homeowners can't sell their homes and they're unable to buy new homes because of the credit crunch," he said. As a result, many people aren't able to move.
Another worrisome sign, Frey suggested, was the decline in the moving rates among people aged 20 to 24 -- which he said went from 10 percent in 2005-06 to 7.3 percent in 2010-11. "These are the people who have been putting their life on hold," he said.
The bureau's data included state-to-state migration, which showed that while New York continues to lose population to Florida, and a few neighboring and nearby states, the loss to Florida in particular has slowed, an indication of the Sunbelt state's difficulties.
In 2006, for example, more than 87,000 New Yorkers moved to Florida -- which continues to attract more New Yorkers than any other. That number dropped to just over 55,000 last year, according to the census report.
While calling Florida a "huge magnet state" for its ability to attract people from elsewhere, Seth Forman, chief planner for the Long Island Regional Planning Council, said Florida has been hurt by the decline in housing values.
"Florida was slammed very hard economically" after real estate values plummeted, Forman said. "To say that New Yorkers slowed their migration there, I think is directly related to the collapse of the housing market."
'IF THEY CAN MAKE IT HERE . . .'
Top 5 states with influx of New Yorkers
1. Florida: 55,011
2. New Jersey: 41,374
3. Pennsylvania: 30,481
4. California: 20,981
5. Connecticut: 20,727
Top 5 states sending people to New York
1. New Jersey: 35,333
2. Florida: 30,553
3. California: 25,177
4. Pennsylvania: 20,514
5. Connecticut: 15,338
Source: U.S. Census Bureau's 2010 American Community Survey