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Moving Industry Stats and Trends

Around 7,000 moving companies are handling nearly 14,000 locations across the US annually, and they have a yearly revenue of about $86 billion. And professional movers are only one of a few possible methods people use to move locally, internationally, or long-distance. This just shows that the moving industry is much bigger than most realize, and it has a significant impact on the economy of the US and the life of an average American. 

It's common knowledge that small businesses are the backbone of the US economy, and the moving industry comprises mostly of them since nearly half of the companies that relocate households employ fewer than five workers. This is yet another proof that the future and prosperity of the US economy is heavily intertwined with the fate of the relocation industry and migratory patterns and habits of American people.

Hardworking movers, drivers, and packers facilitate migrations throughout the States to a great extent. Are you planning on relocating soon? Millions of Americans move annually using everything from rented trucks to professional movers. Where do the citizens of the US go? How far are they willing to relocate? What are the most common reasons they choose to pack up their things and start anew in an unfamiliar environment? How does the current pandemic affect the moving industry and the whole relocation process? Let's go over the whens, hows, whys, and wheres, as well as the industry's basic statistics and some of the newest trends. 

Brief History of the Moving Industry 

The moving industry nowadays employs over 122,600 people nationwide, with a yearly payroll of $3.6 billion, making it one of the largest industries in the US.   

Moving industry didn't always have this kind of impact on the employment and economy. The story of success starts in the US way back when colonists first started populating the west. It's said that the first do-it-yourself moving companies were immigrants that used great wagons. 

The first relocation companies that resemble those we know today formed at the same time as the railroad industry started to develop in the 19th century. When WW1 came, all the fuel and trucks were directed toward the military, causing problems for moving companies. Entrepreneur Ward B. Hiner, who owned a moving company, found a profitable solution for moving household goods - utilizing motor-vans that had no use for military purposes. That's why motor-vans became popular in 1919 during the government efforts to lower the economic dependence on railroad transport. 

Since constant migrations are one of the cornerstones of life in America and one of the reasons for its success, some kind of moving services have always been in high demand. Let's take a closer look at some general numbers.

Basic Moving Statistics  

The moving industry handles various relocations, from local to international, and from family to corporate moves. Let's go over some of the general data that show just how big and important this industry is: 

  • According to the Census Bureau, the average citizen of the US moves 11.7 times in his lifetime.

  • Data shows that nearly 31 million Americans moved within the US in 2019, bringing us to the conclusion that 9.8% of all US citizens move each year. 

  • 9.8% is the lowest number of moves since 1948, the year when the Census Bureau first started tracking data. 

  • The age of the average mover is between 18 and 34, and they are a part of a couple with one or two kids. 

  • Renters move more than homeowners, even if they don't move as often as they did a few generations ago. Data shows that 21.7% of all renters moved in 2017, compared to 35.2% in 1988. This trend is seen in the relocation of homeowners as well - in 2017, 5.5% of property owners relocated, compared to 9.5% in 1988. 

  • Statistics from AMSA show that 15.3 million American households move annually if taking into account the average household size of 2.3 people.  

  • Statistics also show that approximately 3 million US citizens carry out interstate relocations every year. 

  • When it comes to who moves each year, 44% are individual or family moves, 37% are corporate, 16% are military, and 2% are government agencies.  

  • There are approximately 50,000 moving trucks all over the US.

  • While relocating, people take all kinds of things with them. The most common items people move consist of 73% household goods (which includes 12% of military and 1% of the federal government belongings), 18% are electronics office equipment such as fax machines, copiers, and computers, 7% are exhibits and trade shows. 

  • New York Times data analysis shows that moving rates are on the drop. Nowadays, almost half as many people relocate each year as they did back in the 1960s. 

Are Millenials Moving Less Than Previous Generations?

Age is just a number when it comes to relocation. Even though some generations tend to move less than others, there is still a healthy demographic variety. Pew Research Center published the data to show which generations move more:   

Millennials (or people born between 1981-1996) are less likely to move than previous generations did at the same age. The information shows that only 20% of millennials moved last year, that's less than 26% of the Silent Generation in 1963 and Generation X in 2000 when they were the same age. 

This may be due to fewer job market opportunities and an inability to afford to buy a property, making millennials less motivated to relocate. 

When and Where People Move 

Most people move during the warm months of the year; that's why all the data indicates that summer is the busiest time for professional movers. May, Jun, July, and August are always packed, while November, December, and January are the least active months for movers. Also, weekends are the most popular days of the week for relocation, while Tuesday and Wednesday are the least busy. 

Not all people look for ocean views and sandy beaches when changing homes, and that can be seen on the list of top ten states people move to, according to data provided by AMSA:

  • Idaho — 66.9% of shipments inbound

  • Nevada — 60.8%

  • Vermont — 60.2%

  • Arizona— 59.9%

  • Oregon — 59%

  • North Carolina — 58.1%

  • Tennessee — 57.5%

  • Montana — 56.3%

  • South Carolina — 56.2%

  • Alabama — 55.9%

AMSA also made a list of states that see more residents leaving than coming in and settling down. Top ten states with a high percentage of outbound relocations are: 

  • Illinois — 64.4% of shipments outbound

  • New Jersey — 63.5%

  • West Virginia — 61.7%

  • New York — 61.7%

  • Alaska— 60.3%

  • North Dakota — 60.3%

  • Connecticut — 59.7%

  • Kansas — 58.9%

  • Michigan — 55.6%

  • California — 55.4%

Most Americans that relocate stay in the same state. Out of all people that relocate each year, 82.7% relocate within their state, while 13.4% go to another state, and 0.36% move abroad. Also, those staying in the same state don't go very far. Around 40.2% of relocations happen within 50 miles of the previous home, while only 24.7% of people go 500 miles or more. 

What Are the Countries Americans Move to 

The US government doesn't keep track of the exact number of citizens living outside of the country. However, the recent estimate shows that there are near nine million Americans living outside the US. This number doubled since 1999 when only 4.1 million Americans lived in foreign countries. Data from the Association of American Residents Overseas (AARO) shows that expats can be found worldwide in more than 160 countries: 

  • 40% of Americans choose to relocate to the Western hemisphere - that means Canada, Central, and South America. 

  • 26% relocate to Europe

  • 14% choose to go to East Asia and the Pacific, including China, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. 

  • 14% also relocate to the Middle East

  • 3% opt for Central or South Asia

  • 3% device to go to Africa

Why Americans Relocate

What makes one person pick up all of their belongings and move to another place? Are they moving for love or to be closer to the family? Are they looking for better employment opportunities or just looking for a change of scenery? The reasons are never-ending. US Census Bureau data shows that these are the main reasons why US citizens decide to relocate:  

  • Looking for a new or better apartment/house – 17.4%

  • Establishing their own household – 12.2%

  • New employment opportunities or transfer – 10.8%

  • Various family reasons – 10.5%

  • Looking for more affordable housing - 8.2%

  • Various housing reasons – 6.7%

  • Being closer to the office or having a shorter commute time – 6%

  • Wanted to become homeowners – 5.9%

  • Getting married or getting divorced – 4.8%

  • A variety of different reasons - 4.4%

  • To go to or leave college - 3.2%

  • Looking for a safer neighborhood – 3.1%

  • Health motives – 1.8%

  • Other employment-related reasons 1.2%

  • Eviction or foreclosure – 0.9%

  • Retiring – 0.7%

  • Escaping Natural disasters – 0.1%

How People Prefer to Relocate 

When it comes to choosing the way you are going to transport your belongings from one place to another, there are three real options: doing it on your own, renting a moving truck or hiring a professional moving company.

AMSA analyzed the data from around three million interstate relocations, and here's how Americans move:

  • With professional company: Approximately 650,000 moves each year

  • DIY moves with a rented truck: Around 1 million

  • DIY with no assistance: approximately 1.35 million annually  

Those that opted for hiring professional movers sometimes don't have to pay the bill. Data collected by AMSA indicates that moving companies are not always paid by the person that hired them:

  • Individual payments make up 44% of all household shipments

  • Corporations cover 39% of all household relocations

  • The military pays for 16% of the national household relocations, while the federal government covers 1%.  

How Will Technology Reshape Moving Industry 

Moving companies and the industry itself have not escaped the effects of the latest technological developments. Those companies that embrace tech innovations will be able to offer a smoother relocation experience, and therefore attract more clients and boost their bottom lines.

Relocation used to be a long process of meetings, numerous calls, and endless talks. Clients and companies had to go over every tiny detail of the move. Nowadays, it is expected from relocation professionals to offer high levels of efficiency, and the best way to achieve that is by implementing automation of recurring and time-consuming tasks.

Moving companies should also implement VR and AI trends because they can revolutionize the industry as we know it. A mix of mobile tech and machine-learning gives the data to a virtual assistant that can later offer users:

  • Various advice from extensive databases

  • Useful answers to frequently asked questions regarding the moving process

  • These chat boxes are 24/7 customer support, and they can be especially helpful when it comes to international relocations. 

Many companies already implemented plenty of high tech innovations that improve the quality of their services. Those who didn't will surely do it in the future because technology makes the moving process more comfortable and efficient, not only for clients but also for professional movers. 

There are some tech trends many companies apply like self-booking. This way, clients can schedule short notice relocation services via some of the many apps designed for that purpose. Additionally, household items tracking gives clients real-time service updates. It allows them to follow their belongings via an online app. This way, the client has a sense of control and reassurance. 

Additionally, platforms designed to bring all the best companies to clients in a few clicks are the trend that will bring order to the moving industry. Long hours of looking through the reviews, services, and estimates are expected to become a thing of the past. Now everything the client needs will be in one place. Platforms such as MOD24 are created to connect those who want to move and those that can move them professionally. What MOD24 can bring to the industry is a simplification of the entire process, transparency in fees, innovation, and digitalization. With MOD24 features, clients will get the list of trustworthy and double-checked moving companies. Those in need of moving services can go through reviews, compare ratings, track their moving progress, and have excellent customer support on their hands.  

How Will COVID-19 Impact the Moving Industry 

It is still unclear what kind of long-term effect the COVID-19 pandemic will have on the US economy. Since nobody is spared, some moving industry challenges and issues will depend on the duration of the epidemic. 

Due to the overall health situation in the world, migration has ground to a halt in certain places. Even though humankind is for the time forced to stay put in their current homes, at some point, lockdowns will end, and people will be able to move freely and with no restrictions once again.

Urban areas are home to almost 60% of the world population, making them ideal incubators for all kinds of diseases. The chances are that people will look for a way to abandon big and crowded metropolises opting for smaller areas where contact with other people is limited, and the cost of living is more affordable.

Pew Research Center conducted the survey looking for the answer to the question – Who is relocating because of COVID-19 pandemic and why? Around 3% of 9,600 respondents in the US stated that they relocated because of the coronavirus, 22% either moved or knew someone who relocated because of it. Around 9% of people between the age of 18 and 29 confirmed that they moved because of the outbreak. 

Out of those who said that they relocated because of the COVID-19, 28% stated that the main motive was to reduce the risk of getting sick. Among other frequent reasons are campus closures, losing a job, and a desire to be with loved ones.

Broker company the REAL Trends created a survey asking relocation companies about their plans for the future. Almost 80% of professional movers stated that they are worried about what's coming because nearly 74% of them have numerous moving jobs canceled.  

To know more about the future loss of the moving industry, REAL Trends focused on the most recent economic crisis – the Great Recession of 2008-2009. They combined findings from AMSA, Bloomberg's Survey of Economists, and projections from Goldman Sachs, estimating that the relocation industry could lose between $1.5 and $2.5 billion in profits. That is between 12.2% and 19.9% of the current earnings.  

Additionally, crises caused by pandemic can also lead to

  • A large number of companies going out of business. The current estimate shows that the number can be between 880 and 1,400.

  • Almost 18,900 people can be left without a job

  • While the payroll drop can be between 300 and 490 million.

A comparison between recession and a pandemic is still speculative, but it is almost certain that the impact of COVID-19 will be negative. The moving industry as a whole is at a critical crossroads, and it needs to be adequately prepared for what comes next. Finding an easier and more natural way to connect those in need of a move with those that can provide that kind of service might be a solution.
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