More About Migration

Written by: Mallory Bateman

Our recent report, A Snapshot of 2050, discusses the way that migration to and from Utah can make the total population fluctuate. We thought we’d take a minute to look into Utah’s past migration and discuss changes that the state has experienced in the past.

From 1991 to 1997, the share of Utah’s population growth caused by net migration (in-migration minus out-migration) ranged from about 40 percent to just over 50 percent. A similar nearly 50/50 split was seen in 2005 and 2006. However, from 1998 to 2004 and from 2007 on, Utah’s population growth has been primarily due to natural increase. As discussed in the report, the economic climate of the state ends up impacting population growth significantly. The figure below shows both unemployment and the components of population change, and a relationship between the two is pretty clearly illustrated in the 1990 to 2012 timeframe.


The 2001 to 2004 window of low growth from migration coincides with a peak in unemployment for the period – the same can also be seen after 2007. In the period between 2008 and 2009, when the change in unemployment jumped from 3.4% to 7.8%, the contribution of net migration to population growth drops off the chart.

Looking at where our new neighbors are coming from, Californians moving to Utah have been the largest group within the states. Second and third highest has rotated between Utah neighbors Arizona, Nevada and Idaho. In the past few years, people moving from a foreign country have actually been competing with California for the title of top contributor to Utah migration, and in 2010 and 2012 migrants from abroad have topped the charts. According to Census Bureau data for 2012 to 2013, the top reason to move for all movers nationwide was a new job or job transfer. The Census Bureau Flows Mapper shows county-to-county migration flows on a map and is an interesting tool to get into closer detail.


Two moving companies – United Van Lines and Atlas – publish annual results of their relocation data to give additional clues to where people might move to. Although their data is restricted to movers who are willing and able to use their services, their findings are interesting. Atlas shows a balance of net migration, while United Van Lines puts Utah as the state with the sixth highest amount of people moving out.

In January, experts provided a positive outlook for Utah’s 2014 economy. In the first quarter of the year, Utah has seen 2.8% job growth and is maintaining a low unemployment rate. These attributes could create more reason for out-of-staters to come and make Utah their home.

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