PARKERSBURG - The Northeastern portion of the United States is leading the nation in outbound migration - a designation held by the Great Lakes region for the past several years, according to United Van Lines' 35th annual "migration" study.
For 35 years the company has tracked where its customers move from and the most popular destinations during the year. The findings for 2011 were announced recently by Carl Walter, vice president of United Van Lines.
According to the company's report released Jan. 3, West Virginia is the only southern state to have a high outbound migration of people. Washington, D.C., continues to be the nation's most popular destination, the report shows.
For the entire country, West Virginia had fewer outbound moves than Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Michigan. For the year, West Virginia had 866 moves. There were 375 moving in and 491 moving out.
That gives West Virginia an inbound percentage of 43.3 percent and outbound percentage of 56.7. In the 2010 report, West Virginia's outbound percentage was 49.4 percent.
Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell said he had not seen the report, but he said it did not seem to ring true.
"I'm sure statistics at the time were accurate," he said. "It's a surprise. I know in 10 years we lost 1,000 residents but when you look at the Eastern Panhandle they have grown by leaps and bounds so I'm not sure about the accuracy."
Newell said he does agree with the report's finding that there has been many people migrating from the Northeast to the South, but he would like to see more specific numbers for West Virginia, as to which counties are seeing a decrease and the ones with increases.
Newell said the study misses those who may use other movers or do it themselves.
"We know we have lost population as a whole over the past 20 years, due to a decline in the chemical industry and not much to replace them," he said. "Hopefully, the Marcellus Shale drilling will reverse that. This does not ring true at first; many may have not used United."
Wood County Commissioner Blair Couch said he had not seen the study but said he agreed there had been a lot of migration from the state.
"My activity was involved with Penske Trucks and for three or four years, especially in 2008-2009, we had a lot of outbound to rent one way," he said. "From my perspective here in Parkersburg we now have Penske locations come to us to take away trucks for use elsewhere."
Couch said the flaw in the report is it was from one moving company.
"From a day to day look at Wood County I would say we are a flat in and out," he said. " United Van Lines tends to cater to higher-end clientele. Many people can rent a truck and self move for maybe $200 while some van lines cost $1,000 or more for a move."
Couch said he thinks the state is holding its own now, although some areas have been harder hit.
United has tracked migration patterns annually on a state-by-state basis since 1977. For 2011, the study is based on the more than 146,000 interstate household moves handled by United among the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C.
United classifies the states as "high inbound," 55 percent or more of the moves going into a state, "high outbound," 55 percent or more moves coming out of a state, or "balanced."
In 2011, the District of Columbia, at 62.5 percent, was once again the top destination in the United States for the fourth consecutive year.
Two southern states, North Carolina, 56.4 percent, and Florida, 55.1 percent, also had a high percentage of inbound migration.
The western United States is represented on the high-inbound list with Oregon, 60.8 percent, and Nevada, 56.9 percent, both making the list. Oregon is number two for inbound migration for the second year in a row. Nevada returned to the high inbound traffic list in 2011 after being considered a balanced state in 2010.
Illinois, 60.8 percent, captured the top spot on the high-outbound traffic list. New Jersey, 60.5 percent, was a close second. New Jersey claimed the top spot for high-outbound migration in 2010. Illinois was No. 5 on the list in 2010.
The Northeast is the most well-represented region on the high-outbound traffic list. In addition to New Jersey, New York, 58.3 percent, Rhode Island, 56.3 percent, New Hampshire, 56.1 percent, Connecticut, 55.8 percent, and Maine, 55.8 percent, are included.
Michigan, 58 percent, was the only other Great Lakes state on the list. It moved from the No. 3 spot on the high-outbound list in 2010 to No. 4 in 2011. It had claimed the top outbound spot every year from 2006-2009. North Dakota, 55.7 percent, was the only Western state to appear on the list.
Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania all had high-outbound traffic in 2010. Traffic in those states has leveled, and all three appear on the balanced list for 2011.
South Carolina appeared on the 2010 high-inbound list, but is considered balanced in 2011.
Several states were almost perfectly balanced gaining approximately the same number of residents as those that left. Those states are Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Virginia and Mississippi in the South and Maryland in the East.