Migration into Washington on the Mend

The Office of Financial Management recently emailed me their latest annual migration data, which shows the first increase in new residents moving into the state since 2006:

Washington State Yearly Growth

After a paltry 6,055 people moved to Washington between April 2010 and April 2011, the pace has picked up this year, reversing a five-year trend and mostly catching up with the rate at which new housing inventory (for rent or purchase) is coming on the market.

It’s worth noting that although it is back on an upswing, annual net migration is still a tiny fraction of the 120,000 people a year that local real estate educator Richard Hagar has been consistently claiming since 2007.

Here’s a plot of just King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties, going all the way back to 1961 (the oldest data provided by OFM):

Puget Sound Annual Net Migration

King and Snohomish actually both lost people in 2011, but have since inched back into positive territory, gaining 2,214 and 2,019 residents in 2012, respectively. Pierce was in the red in 2009 and 2010, but bumped back up a bit earlier than King or Snohomish, and added 684 new residents in 2012.

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About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.


  1. 1
    Lily says:

    How accurate is this data? I have trouble believing that new housing units was higher in 2010 than in 2008. I also don’t believe that there was lower net migration in 2011 than in 2009-2010, when apartments were offering 2 months free rent due to high vacancies and Microsoft laid off employees.

  2. 2
    ray pepper says:

    Wait till In & Out Burger gets here…The masses will follow…Especially the chubbers like me! : http://www.in-n-out.com/pdf/locations_printable.pdf

  3. 3

    RE: Lily @ 1

    Its Tim’s Term Net Migration That Has Me Befuddled

    A lot of this data should be “undocumented immigrants”. Albeit, if they’re countable [documented somehow], we have many companies in Seattle that could face stiff legal fines/penalties for knowingly hiring ’em [we can count ’em]. Its a cat’s cradle.

    Speaking of MSFT H-1B insourcing techs to replace Seattle area candidates; the single workers from i.e., India, can also bring in chain migration [their wives, kids parents, etc, etc], was chain migration added in?

  4. 4
    Mike says:

    Great! Now I can claim “I moved when it wasn’t cool”

  5. 5
    Tamer Kirac says:

    Tim, OFM does great work with population estimates. I use it professionally, in my work as an economist-planner for a Development District. I think there is a need to look into the cohort component (age categories) of these migration data. As the Nation gets older, population dynamics related age needs to be better articulated, with respect to care, health and business services.

  6. 6
    Lo Ball Jones says:

    RE: Lily @ 1

    From their own web site.

    ” Migration is difficult to measure and migration is a difficult concept to understand.”

    Anecdotally, the parking lot at my apartment complex has a lot more empty spaces it seems…

  7. 7
    Keith says:

    This data seems really off, going with what was said in earlier comments… maybe I’m confused, but I think nearly no new housing hit the market in 2010 – it’s part of what’s driving the current rush to build in Seattle. Were there suburban tracts that were being finished or something?
    Related Question: Is this data available for just Seattle?

  8. 8
    ess says:

    Net migration is just one of a variety of factors that affect housing and prices. There are others, such as job creation, household creation, interest rates, land use restrictions etc. Does anyone have an opinion of what the order of importance is of various factors that affect housing prices?

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