Hot job markets are No. 1 draw for ex-Californians – The Mercury News

California’s long-running “net outmigration” data shows us the exits outnumbered new residents from other states by 341,866 in 2022.

Migration is by no means a static number. Last year, California saw a 65,797 improvement in its in-vs.-out gap compared with 2021. And the direction of those interstate relocations continues to be a geographic jigsaw puzzle.

Census Bureau stats show 2022’s largest net outflow was to Texas, which gained 60,163 more Californians than what the Lone Star State lost to the Golden State. Arizona was next at 46,745. Then came Nevada at 26,653.

Conversely, New Jersey was the No. 1 net contributor to California’s population with 6,619 more exits than arrivals followed by Illinois at 3,986 and Nebraska at 1,512.

So, what’s driving these mixed movements? My trusty spreadsheet tells me it’s all about the jobs.

Weighing the factors

My math compared interstate migration patterns against six scorecards created for my “Leaving California” series, which looked at economic and demographic stats gauging where a Californian might go.

These relocation motivations were ranked by how many more Californians came to each category’s top 10 states vs. how many departed for the Golden State. Basically, a combined net migration gauged the six catalysts. Here are the grades …

No. 1 reason is jobsThe 10 best states for jobs – Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Washington and North Dakota – netted 218,000 ex-Californians in 2022.

Employment as a critical relocation variable makes sense. For starters, California’s high cost of living makes its residents very career-oriented. Plus, California is a younger state, a relocation demographic that needs good jobs compared with, say, the retirement crowd.

No. 2 is fun: My top 10 states for life away from work – Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Colorado, Minnesota, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Maryland and Rhode Island – netted an average of 105,000 former Californians. It’s not that many ex-Californians are dissatisfied with the state’s plentiful offerings of recreational options. They were likely spoiled by the Golden State and wanted a new home that had comparable fun potential.

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No. 3 is culture: You know all those social, political, taxation and/or spiritual factors that make some ex-Calfornians say they felt forced to exit? Well, my top 10 states with an anti-California vibe – South Dakota, North Dakota, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Idaho, Alabama, Wyoming, Indiana, Louisiana and Alaska – netted 61,000 former Golden Staters. It’s clearly a population driver. But this state has decidedly progressive leanings – which limits how many folks are so dissatisfied with its culture they’d bolt for elsewhere.

No. 4 is safety: Plenty of ex-Californias expressed vulnerability to various risks in their former home state, from crime to climate. The 10 states with the safest living – Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Virginia, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York and Idaho – netted 31,000 former Golden Staters. Despite numerous high-profile safety challenges, California’s perils are in line with much of the nation.

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No. 5 is the bargain: On one hand, you’d think someone departing pricey California would seek the best value, both the cost of living and income opportunities. But my 10 states with the most bang for the buck – Colorado, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Illinois, Utah, Maryland, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska and West Virginia – netted 20,000 former Californians. While money issues likely drove some Californians out, the state’s high-wage careers probably allowed many relocating households to avoid the absolutely cheapest states.

No. 6 is health: Wellness may be a concept people talk about but don’t act upon. My 10 healthiest states – Massachusetts, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut, Utah, Wisconsin, Vermont and New Hampshire – barely had a migration edge over California with just 10,000 more ex-Californians than departures to the Golden State.

Bottom line

Consider my list of the 10 best states for a departing Californian as identified by a compilation of my “Leaving California” rankings – New Hampshire, Minnesota, Utah, Idaho, Washington, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming and Maryland.

They netted a mere 67,000 ex-Californians last year. That’s roughly an average haul for what I suggest were well-above-average relocation targets.

So it’s possible my “Leaving California” logic is off. Or folks relocate move for reasons that aren’t widely discussed.

At least my top 10 beat a “best state” composite index I created as part of the “Leaving California” rankings. This top 10, created from mashup of nine “best state” scorecards, was New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Minnesota, Virginia, Washington, Maine, Iowa and North Dakota. They netted only 26,000 ex-Californians.

Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at Hot job markets are No. 1 draw for ex-Californians – The Mercury News

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