Within the world of economic development, there exists a two-way interplay between a location’s economic vitality and their labor supply. One key determinant of an area’s capacity for economic growth is the availability of relevant, skilled labor – an indicator that has become more important than ever. The interplay occurs because the economic vitality that developers seek to create is exactly what draws new skilled labor into the market, creating a real chicken or the egg problem.
Because of this relationship and the nation’s historically low unemployment, economic developers, site selection consultants, and businesses have begun placing an increased emphasis on measure like in-migration, out-migration, and net-migration when determining an area’s ability to meet their labor demands. Ann Petersen of Cushman & Wakefield reaffirms this by stating, “An existing skilled workforce may help to reduce a company’s exposure to risk associated with finding skilled labor, but net migration data helps to complete the workforce picture in a particular market.” Areas with large inflows, low outflows, and positive net migration demonstrate their ability to attract talent in addition to retaining their existing workforce. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Fayette County had a migration inflow of 15,043, an outflow of 13,484, and net-migration of 1,559 for individuals age 25 and older. Lexington’s positive net-migration is supported largely by an inflow of 2,074 migrants from other nations.
“An existing skilled workforce may help to reduce a company’s exposure to risk associated with finding skilled labor, but net migration data helps to complete the workforce picture in a particular market.”
– Ann Peterson, Managing Director, Business Incentives Practice, Cushman & Wakefield
Beyond the basic measures of in-migration, out-migration, and net-migration, site selectors and businesses are utilizing more granular migration data. The Census Bureau provides multiple datasets that add additional detail, but one of the most important datasets categorizes migrants by age. By analyzing this data, consultants and businesses can see whether a location is successfully attracting millennials, the generation that currently makes up most of the U.S. labor force. In 2019, the millennial generation is anyone age 23-38. Fayette County has a net-migration of 3,779 people age 20-39. Similar Fayette County’s general net-migration, the county’s millennial migration is supported largely by an inflow of 1,524 migrants from other nations.
One of the most useful and interesting uses of Census Bureau migration data can be seen using the Census Flows Mapper. This tool allows users to track county-to-county migration flows so local business and community leaders can see where their population is coming from and moving to. Currently, the tool uses 2012-2016 5-year estimates for the population age 1-year and older and displays inflows, outflows and net-migration between a selected county and another U.S. county or region abroad. According to the Census Bureau, the largest source of net-migration for Fayette county was Madison County, Kentucky with 521 movers in 2016. For more information on Fayette County’s top migration inflows and outflows, see the graphic below.