Is New Jersey’s rate of out-migration cause for concern?

Raven Santana, Correspondent | January 9, 2019

The United Van Lines National Movers Study has been cited in numerous news articles with headlines like “More residents move out of New Jersey than any other state.” Senate President Steve Sweeney even used the report as a way to track outward migration saying it “underscores the need for fiscal reforms”. But how accurate the study is depends on who you talk to.

“I’m sure the study is very, very accurate,” according to Jim Hughes, dean emeritus of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Public Policy and Planning at Rutgers University.

“That report is a point of data and that is all it is,” said Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.

“It should absolutely not be taken seriously,” said Sheila Reynertson, senior policy analyst at the left-leaning think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective.

These three different experts weighed it to figure out if people, especially millennials, are really fleeing the state, and if so, why.

According to the study, in 2018, 66.8 percent of people left New Jersey and 33.2 percent made it their new home. It found that the majority of people moving out of New Jersey were 55 and older and moved for a job.

Hughes follows these types of trends and believes the study is spot on.

“It’s simply data on the flow of their trucks within the United States. Job growth has been much stronger let’s say in North Carolina than it is in New Jersey or Pennsylvania so there’s a tendency for people to move there. But millennials, many of them are bored in suburbia, they want to be by other millennials and the like. So New Jersey is the most suburban of states. We have a little bit in Hoboken and Jersey City that are like Brooklyn, but we don’t have a lot of places like that. And millennials are flockingwhere other millennials have designated places as cool. So Brooklyn is cool, but Hunterdon County is not cool,” Hughes said.

Siekerka says the study needs a larger data sample.

“I agree with the outcome, again, the data is but one point,” said Siekerka. “But when you look at the data point and you marry it up to objective evidence, like the research we do at NJBIA based on census data and tax returns, the answer is the same. We are the number one out-migration in the state for those contemplating retiring, as well as for millennials. We have a challenge in the state of New Jersey of keeping out residents in the state because of affordability and the lack of regional competitiveness. That includes our business owners. It’s our residents and our business owners.”

But Reynertson says the study isn’t even close to moving in the right direction. Despite claims of an exodus, she says IRS data indicates New Jersey’s population is actually growing, and at a much faster rate than neighboring states, including New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

“New Jersey loses about 25,000 people per year. That’s is a very tiny percentage of the 9 million who live here,” said Reynertson.

Reynertson says the data is reflecting the moving patterns of people with the economic means to hire moving companies and says it isn’t telling the whole story.

“Millennials in New Jersey are not leaving at a higher rate than generation Xers did two decades ago. It is a pattern that is nothing new and it’s not a crisis. This is a survey of one moving company that is being used by business lobbyist and legislators to justify some conservative trickle down economic policy that is actually hurtful to the people of New Jersey,” she said.

There is agreement that people are moving out of New Jersey. But it is cause for concern, or just really good public relations for United Van Lines?