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Labor Force Migration

Katie Paton and E.C. Myers


The proportions of the locations of the work force in the United States are changing. The labor force is shifting from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and the West.

The West has had the largest percentage increase over the past 40 years. During the development of the United States, there have been different eras when jobs have been concentrated in certain regions. Recently, technology industry clusters have been popping up on the West Coast.  

The Multifactor productivity of manufacturing computer and electronic products has steadily increased since the late 1980’s. The industry gained momentum in course with Silicon Valley and other technological hubs along the west coast. This brought people from all over the US in search of jobs, particularly people from the Northeast, as is seen in their percentage population decline.  Industry clusters are groups of similar firms in a defined geographic area that share a common market. The Silicon Valley attracts many young technology professionals to the area due to start up companies such as Apple, Netflix, and Google.  These tech start up companies are creating an expressive culture that differs greatly from the East Coast’s work culture.

The East Coast’s developed financial market may have less room for growth than the developing West Coast’s technology market, but the past 40 years has shown a steady growth in the industry. The total assets in all commercial banks in the US has experienced a steady growth over the last 40 years. In January of 1976, when 31.6% of the US labor force was located in the south, the commercial banks had total assets of $918 billion US dollars. In December 2017, the percentage of the US labor force in the South had grown to 36.9% and the commercial banking assets had increased to $16,787 billion US dollars. While causation is not evident in these similar growth patterns, correlation is certainly evident. The South has experienced an increase in the labor force largely as a result of the growing commercial banking industry, prevalent in the south. For example, Charlotte, NC is the 2nd largest financial center in the US.

Having new industry clusters is good for the local economy as it brings jobs to the area. This growing market will increase GDP, increasing the income of technology employees, and increasing the consumption, creating a cycle to help the United States economy.

-Katie Paton & E.C. Myers

11 thoughts on “Labor Force Migration

  1. radcliffec20

    What a cool post! Your explanation for the east to west migration pattern makes a lot of sense, and the way you relate the last graph about total assets to the importance of industry clusters is really interesting. I wonder if some new industry will pop up in the Northeast that will allow some people to eventually return back to that region...we'll see!

  2. clintong20

    This is definitely an incredible phenomena! I find it interesting how you relate geographical positions to real economic welfare. Additionally, the west coast's technological market is on a large boom, is it possible that this could expand the financial market on the east coast?

  3. bearupk20

    Such an interesting post! The relationship geographic changes in industry and migration is something I don't give much thought to, so thank you for highlighting this. It makes me wonder that as industries and the economy change if we will see migration grow in different regions. If I were to guess, I would bet that our society will witness a change in this at some point.

  4. longa20

    This is very interesting, as I am from the northeast and did not realize that the population has declined due to the job market. It is interesting to look at how different job sectors are centralized in different hubs like the finance in the east and technology in the west. It will be interesting to follow this trend in the future as it will most likely have an impact on where our generation and those to come will live.

  5. the prof

    At the same time that we see these sorts of regional shifts, we are also seeing lower mobility at the individual level: on average people move a lot less than they did 25 years ago. Beyond seeing the occasional graph, though, I don't know details – how big a change and so on. Nor do I know if it matters – the "so what" question.

  6. Jimmie Johnson III

    I think this post is very interesting. The same way different countries specialize in different things, different regions of the US are beginning to specialize in different industries. Especially as my class starts thinking about jobs soon, it seems the industry we choose to go into will play a huge roll into where we live.

  7. Lauren Fredericks

    These graphs certainly reflect what I've experienced growing up in Silicon Valley, CA. It never seems to stop growing. Even the Great Recession barely paused the booming real estate market, and prices bounced back within a year or so as people continued flooding into the area and demanding housing.

  8. spencerc20

    It's interesting to see how labor migration in the US has been affected by the convenience of where markets are located. It would also be interesting to see how these migrations would have been affected if technology start-ups had been founded somewhere else in the country.

  9. warej20

    This was a very interesting post! I had known that the Silicon Valley was a hub for emerging tech companies, but I did not realize the extent of the regional shift towards the West. The prevalence of technology in today’s society certainly makes the new tech industry appealing to young skilled workers. I am curious to see if the Northeast will aim to enter a new industry of its own in hopes of bringing back workers.

  10. Chris Surran

    This was an incredibly interesting post. I am from Texas, and I there are several examples of companies moving their headquarter to the DFW metroplex area. It was interesting to see the empirical data behind this migration.

  11. the prof

    The biggest levels of migration today are in developing countries, as people leave the farm for the city. Since the early 1990s – the past 25 years – perhaps 350 million Chinese have migrated. Rates are increasing in India as well, and now cities in SSA (Sub Saharan Africa) are also exploding in size. That's a much bigger transition than moving from one city to another in the US!!


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