Wednesday, July 20, 2011

As the continent fills

kw: census records, population, trends

I've been waiting for the results from the 2010 U.S. Census to be compiled. Some are ready now, but my wait is still not over for county-by-county data, as only 945 counties are completed. I have begun to learn to use the Census Factfinder. At least state data are ready, so I can do basic analysis. Chart 1 shows the total population by state (including D.C. and Puerto Rico), in a lognormal distribution.

The total U.S. population counted was 312,471,327. More than a tenth of these are in California; the top four populated states (millions) are California (37.3), Texas (25.1), New York (19.4) and Florida (18.8). The bottom four are Wyoming (0.56), D.C. (0.60), Vermont (0.63) and North Dakota (0.67). California is having both water and electricity supply problems, and Texas is perennially short of water. This will have worrisome implications in the future.

Chart 2 shows percent change in population, analyzed as a normal distribution.

Both this and the following chart, which shows numeric change, reveal trends we need to watch. The top four percent growth states are Nevada (+35%), Arizona (+25%), Utah (+24%) and Idaho (21%). The four with the most loss or the least growth are Puerto Rico (-2.2%), Michigan (-0.6%), Rhode Island (+0.4%) and Louisiana (+1.4%). Compare with the national total percent change of 10.0%.

Nevada is a small state; the relatively huge percent growth represents less than a million people. But it shows the continued popularity of Las Vegas and Reno, plus an influx of retirees that are picking the drier climate, since Arizona now has so many watered lawns. The growth of Utah has a similar cause. Xeriscaping in Arizona could change this and shift the trend back their way. Idaho is strongly recruiting retirees also. The losses in Puerto Rico and Michigan are job-related. Whoever can afford to move away is doing so. For Louisiana, the low growth is a lingering effect of the hurricane six years ago. Rhode Island? I don't know.

Chart 3 shows the change in numerical population, shown as the lognormal distribution of the data with a threshold subtracted; subtracting -110,100 means adding 110,100 to bring all values above zero so logarithmic analysis can work.

On the growth side, it is worth looking at the top six: Texas (+5.18), California (+3.73), Florida (+3.31), Georgia (+1.77), North Carolina (+1.76) and Arizona (+1.57). The bottom four are Puerto Rico (-0.082 = -82,000), Michigan (-0.059), Rhode Island (+0.004) and Vermont (+0.018). It is again worrisome that the top two growth states have serious water supply problems, as does Arizona. The loss or lowest-growth states would be good places to move to, climate-wise, but there are job shortages. I consider the growth in Georgia to be job-related, and in North Carolina and Florida to be retiree-related.

The two biggest trends in the country are first, the continued retirement of Baby Boomers (my generation); this has slowed some since the crash of 2008-9, which worsens the second trend, which is the frustrated job aspirations of the X and Y generations. Most of the Y generation, those who graduated from high school after 1999, meaning those born after 1981, are also called the Millennial generation. If the retirement rate of Baby Boomers had not scaled back by some 30%, there would be more jobs opening up nationwide. But the loss of a couple trillion dollars held in IRA's and 401-K's has led many people, including me, to conclude it is better to work a few more years.

This has placed a big bottleneck on the jobs available to younger people. But it is helping the Social Security picture. The longer a Boomer works, at a typically higher pay rate than a younger worker, the more money gets sent into the SSA budget, and the less it taken out (temporarily). But as slowly as the economy is recovering, the Millennial generation is going to have to field more entrepreneurs, because existing businesses are simply not adding enough jobs to satisfy the demand for employment.

Businesses that hire across generations will do the best. The youngest ones are the most tech-savvy, living in a FaceBook and LinkedIn world. Although I use both FB and LI, I know I don't take advantage of them to the extent that the Millennials do. But the Gen Xers and Boomers aren't going anywhere just yet, and we add balance to an enterprise. We typically have better BS detectors, for example. The oldest Millennials are starting to produce offspring, so they need jobs. Their kids were once expected to be called Gen Z, but are now more likely to inherit the moniker Post-Millennial, because most of them were born after 2000. They'll hit the job market in eight to ten years. Will it be ready for them?

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