State population increase a boon for moving companies

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Bluebird Transfer owner Wade McLaren has seen an increase in his business since people started moving into Oregon during the past few months. Oregon added 30,000 new residents last year.Portland-Vancouver moving company executive, Wade McLaren, started 2013 with low expectations for business growth. Atlas Van Lines, the national affiliate of his Blue Bird Moving & Storage Co., forecast little change from previous years when moving companies such as McLaren’s had been punished by the Great Recession.

By year’s end, McLaren’s outlook had brightened.

“Our (household moving) business was up 22 percent in 2013,” McLaren said. “This is a big improvement over the rough situation of the past several years. Most of our vendors are telling us that they also had a better year.”

According to an Atlas Van Lines online graphic, Oregon was among three Western states (along with Idaho and Montana) where the company saw 55 percent or more inbound moving traffic. Washington state was balanced between inbound and outbound activity.

Certified population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show an annual increase of 30,000 new Oregon residents through July 1, 2013, for a year-over-year growth rate of 0.8 percent. The report was released Dec. 30.

That compares with national 2013 population growth of 0.72, the slowest since 1937, when the United States was in the midst of the Great Depression.

Another recent report, this one from Portland State University’s Population Research Center, showed that last year Oregon had the biggest in-migration of the past five years, with an estimated net population increase of 35,290 — the majority (23,300) from in-bound relocations.

This was a change from prior recessionary years, when the state’s population grew mostly because of a positive birth-death ratio from the existing population.

“This increase, of course, is still well below net in-migration rates of the 1990s, when annual gains were averaging 58,000 a year,” said the center’s Charles Rynerson. Average annual increases in the 2000s have been around 41,000, he said.

Recession’s impact

Census Bureau officials attribute the nation’s overall population slow-down to the Great Recession, which resulted in fewer births and less household creation. An aging baby boomer population with fewer people in their childbearing years and slower immigration also contributed to slower growth. States actually losing population were Maine and West Virginia.

Meanwhile, 11 of the 15 fastest-growing states last year were in the West.

According to the Census Bureau:

• Washington state saw a net increase of 76,000 residents, up 1.1 percent.

• Idaho gained 15,500 newcomers, up 1.0.

• California grew by 332,600 new residents for a gain of 0.9 percent.

Analysts tie last year’s biggest population gains and losses to the economy and jobs. States such as North Dakota, Utah and Texas, where job growth has been robust, were the most fast-growing, with population gains of 3.1 percent, 1.6 percent and 1.49 percent respectively.

However, the latest government reports suggest state-to-state migration remains modest. Middle-age and older people appear to be moving more often as they relocate in retirement. Many young people remain stuck because of job insecurity or ownership of a house with an under-water mortgage.

Typically, as the economy recovers from a recession, women who put off childbearing may now decide to have a baby. Demographers are waiting to see if that happens in the coming 12 to 18 months.

I-5 corridor growth

Portland State’s Population Research Center said 16 of Oregon’s 36 counties saw little population change last year. Three counties actually lost population. Most growth occurred in urban areas up and down Interstate 5, with Portland adding the greatest number of people, up 4,200. Salem, Eugene and Wilsonville each added 1,000 newcomers.

Despite a continuing anemic economic recovery, population growth is expected to continue in much of the nation this year.

McLaren, president of Blue Bird Moving, expects his business to keep improving.

“Our national company is forecasting a 6 percent increase in its overall moving business,” he said. Both Oregon and Washington are expected to remain net inbound states because of improving job markets.

If Oregon’s population growth trends continue, the state’s population, estimated at 3.93 million, could top 4 million by 2015.

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