GHP: U-Haul Statistics Not Indicative Of Houston Population Shift

In recent oil boom years, Houston made headlines for the number of people moving to the city. A recent published report suggests that number is slipping.

U-Haul truck at UH campus

The report says U-Haul has helped 2.4 percent more people move out of Houston than into the city so far this year. But Patrick Jankowski with the Greater Houston Partnership is skeptical that Houston is losing people.

“If you look at the Census Bureau data that was just released two or three weeks ago, it showed that actually in the period ending in July 2015, we actually had 98,000 more people move here than moved out. But there’s also a component called Net International Migration. Last year, we actually had 37,500 people move here from overseas. Think about it: If I’m moving here from France, I’m not renting a U-Haul!” Jankowski said.

Jankowski said the problem with the U-Haul indicator is that it’s just a headline number. It’d be nice to have additional data on where people are moving.

“They’re moving out of Houston? Jankowski asked. “Are they moving out of Houston to Fort Bend? Are they moving out of Houston to Pasadena? That’s not shown up in the numbers. It’s a nice indicator, but it’s not something that I would make a hard financial decision on or a hard business decision on.”

Jankowski said beyond job fluctuations, there’s natural growth in Houston each year when births and deaths are factored in — and there are more births than deaths.

As for the effect of cheaper oil on Houston, as important as the energy industry is, maybe it no longer determines the future of Houston’s economy.

Jankowski compares it to the way an engine works — especially the part that keeps it from running too fast.

“Where the governor opens up and lets the motor turn very fast, the governor clamps down and has the motor turn slower. That may be what oil prices do for Houston,” Jankowski said. “When oil prices are high, Houston grows very fast. When oil prices are low, we grow slower, but we still grow.”

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