ALBANY (TNS) — In July 2020, Maria and Jayson Loushin finally made a change they’d been talking about for years. They sold their furniture, packed up their cars and three children, and moved from Staten Island to Palm Coast, Fla.
”The pandemic wasn’t our reason for leaving; it just gave us the opportunity to leave,” Maria said. “We were able to work remotely and take our jobs with us. We were able to say ‘now is the time’ and ‘let’s do it.’”
The Loushins were sick of long commutes to work on the train and ferry. They wanted to be closer to Maria’s parents, who live in Florida. And they loved the easy access to their favorite place: the beach.
The Loushins, who are documenting their move on YouTube, are now building a house in a coastal community. They’ve noticed a fair number of New Yorkers in the area, distinguished by their New York license plates or Yankees caps, and locals have remarked about noticing an “influx” as well.
Their experience aligns with a broader trend. Recently released estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show that hundreds of thousands of people moved out of New York during the pandemic.
The data offer the first snapshot of the state’s population loss since COVID-19 struck the state.
From July 2020 to July 2021, New York’s population fell by 319,020 people, the largest numeric decline of any state in the country, according to Census Bureauestimates.
At 1.6%, New York also had the largest percentage decrease in population of any state during that period. Only the District of Columbia had a higher percentage decrease.
New York’s declining population in the last year can be attributed to 352,185 residents moving out of New York, the Census Bureau estimated. According to the Empire Center for Public Policy, this shatters all out-migration records, exceeding New York’s record annual migration losses during the late 1970s.
Only California had more residents move out of its state from July 2020 to July 2021. Illinois was third. But those losses were offset by new residents more so than New York’s.
New York’s population has now fallen below 20 million people to 19.8 million.
From April 2010 to April 2020, New York’s population grew by 4%, slower than the national average, Census Bureau data showed. But in one year from July 2020 to July 2021, the state has lost a large chunk of those gains made over a decade.
Mark Castiglione, executive director of the Capital District Regional Planning Commission, noted that these census estimates are based on new methodology, due to the effects of the pandemic, and only time will tell how accurate the estimates prove to be. But a shrinking population could translate into negative impacts for the state, including less tax revenue, contracting school districts and fewer young people.
Justin Wilcox, executive director of Upstate United, a business and taxpayer advocacy group, said “addressing the Empire State exodus must be a top priority of our leaders in 2022.” He suggested high taxes and the cost of living in the state were causing New Yorkers to relocate.
Gov. Kathy Hochul did not respond to a request for comment.
Early in the pandemic, change of address requests from the U.S. Postal Service showed a surge of people coming from the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queensup to Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties.
Since those early days, Facebook groups for New Yorkers relocating — in-state or out — have proliferated. There are groups for people considering moves to specific states or regions or for those trying to sort out where and whether to relocate. Discussion boards show people pondering destinations all over the county, international relocations or a hop from New York City to Upstate.
Out of state
Chris Alan Jones moved with his wife and baby from Queens to Ferndale, Mich., in May 2020 because they were concerned for their health being in the city during the pandemic. Jones, 46, has multiple sclerosis and is immunocompromised. He felt he couldn’t safely go to the grocery store or even leave their third floor apartment in New York.
”I was terrified to leave the house because I didn’t want to get sick,” Jones said. “I didn’t want my daughter to get sick.”
So Jones and his family moved to a house his wife had inherited in Ferndale and soon bought their own three-bedroom home there, paying less on their mortgage than they did to rent their one-bedroom apartment. They now can safely play in their own backyard.
With her child and husband, Zoha Rehmani relocated from New York City in December 2020. They were tired of being locked in their “shoe box” apartment during COVID-19 and had been priced out of anything bigger in New York. So they took the plunge and moved to a more affordable apartment in Austin, Texas.
After renting for a year in Austin, Rehmani and her husband had hoped to buy a home. But now they’re finding they can’t afford the few homes available in the hot housing market there.
”Austin is not that cheap,” Rehmani said. “Why should I stay in a place that is just as expensive as New York but doesn’t have everything New York has?”
Missing the “East Coast culture,” Rehmani and her family plan to move again to the Washington, D.C., area come summer, she said.
The U.S. overall
Overall, the population of the U.S. grew by 0.1% from July 2020 to this past July, the lowest rate since the nation’s founding, according the Census Bureau. The bureau attributed the slow growth rate to a reduction in immigration, decreased fertility and increased mortality due in part to the pandemic.
”Population growth has been slowing for years because of lower birth rates and decreasing net international migration, all while mortality rates are rising due to the aging of the nation’s population,” said Kristie Wilder, a demographer in the Population Division at the Census Bureau. “Now, with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, this combination has resulted in a historically slow pace of growth.”
During this one year period, more people moved domestically to the South than anywhere else, while people relocated out of the Northeast and West, the Census Bureau found.
Texas gained the most people in this period due to domestic in-migration and births. Idaho had the fastest annual percentage increase in population.
But the vast majority of people stayed put in 2021 and did not move, other census data released earlier this year showed. In fact, people moved at the lowest rate in over 70 years in 2021.
Some who left the Empire State are having second thoughts.
Katey said she moved from New York City to Connecticut in June 2020, but now she is trying to move back. The Times Union agreed not to use her last name due to the nature of her work. She has more living space in Connecticut, but “it’s so boring,” and “non-diverse,” she said.
”I just don’t have that much in common with soccer moms,” she said. “I’m trying to go back as soon as possible.”