Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun
Thursday, Sept. 2, 2010 | 2 a.m.
With emerging signs of economic recovery across the country, a slow but steady stream of Las Vegans is moving away in search of better luck, in stark contrast to the unprecedented influx of residents during the region’s boom years.
“People are moving out more than usual,” said Sherry Clark, a sales representative for the moving company Allstate Moving in Las Vegas.
Among U-Haul rentals, more are heading out of town than arriving, by a 2 percent margin, said Joanne Fried, U-Haul International director of media and public relations. And outward traffic is slightly higher this year compared with 2009.
Mayflower Transit and United Van Lines moving companies have reported decreases in incoming and outgoing traffic for Clark County since 2007, but the number of people moving to the valley has plummeted more than the number leaving.
Among those leaving is a 30-year-old plumber and mechanic who swayed his 2-year-old daughter in his arms, trying to keep her entertained while awaiting the keys for a 17-foot U-Haul truck he would drive from Henderson to Reno. After 10 years of trying in vain to find a steady job, he is giving up on Las Vegas.
“You can’t find work here,” he said, declining to give his name.
The Census Bureau estimates that from July 2008 to July 2009, the migration out of Clark County exceeded the migration in by more than 1,000. The year before — when the recession wasn’t as severe — the opposite was true, with inbound exceeding outbound by more than 14,000.
Jeremy Aguero, principal analyst for the consulting firm Applied Analysis, said he expects that outbound migration will continue to overshadow incoming migration. Fewer driver’s licenses have been surrendered at the DMV compared with past years, meaning fewer people have been moving here and turning in their old licenses, he said.
In July, 4,683 licenses were surrendered, down 3.3 percent from 4,845 in July 2009. The figure has been dropping since 2004, when 8,889 licenses were surrendered in July, the highest on record, Aguero said.
There has also been an increase in one-way bus tickets out of Las Vegas, he said.
Some analysts say they had anticipated even more people leaving Dodge, and suggest the reason is that many residents are struggling to sell their homes or have not been able to find work elsewhere. The national unemployment rate is 9.5 percent, compared with 14.8 percent in Las Vegas.
“We’re in such bad shape here you’d think a lot more people would be leaving,” said John Restrepo, principal analyst for Restrepo Consulting Group. “And maybe they would if they could, but they’re kind of stuck.”
The Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors reported that 3,748 homes were sold in July, down from 4,602 in July 2009. The number of homes for sale without any pending offers has risen more than 10 percent, which may indicate that people who want to leave can’t. But it could also mean more people are trying to find cheaper housing.
Occupancy at extended-stay motels has also fallen sharply, bringing with it lowered room rates to entice business. For example, occupancy at the valley’s Emerald Suites declined from 75 percent in 2006 to 48 percent six months ago. Room rates were reduced about $20. At Siena Suites, occupancy went from about 85 percent to 65 percent.
Managers at U-Haul stores have noticed more last-minute move-outs. Instead of making reservations for a truck, a lot of residents are renting vans on a walk-in basis. Elmer Veatch, manager at a U-Haul store on Boulder Highway, said this may mean many people are being forced to move with little notice.
David Stevens, a 35-year-old Henderson resident, rented a 26-foot U-Haul truck this week to take his father’s furniture to California. He said his parent had gone to San Francisco because of medical issues but planned to return to Las Vegas to be with his grandchildren. Then his Las Vegas property lost half its value.
“He was going to move back out here, but the economy tanked and the house market crashed,” Stevens said.
So Stevens spent the day filling up the truck with bedding, sofas, tables and other furniture to make the 12-hour drive.
He added that many of his friends have left town for Arkansas, Utah and other states because they’ve lost jobs.