Economy slows moving to states in South, West

WASHINGTON — After decades of exponential growth in which housing developments sprouted in swamps, farmland and deserts, the number of Americans moving to several states in the South and the West has slowed sharply due to the recession and housing bust, according to Census Bureau figures released Wednesday.

The longtime magnets of Florida and Nevada, which had benefited most as people fled the cold winters of the Northeast and Midwest, saw more Americans move out than in over the year ending July 1. California also had a net loss of so-called domestic migrants, although in all three states the impact was blunted by immigration from other countries and by natural growth because of births.

The state population figures foreshadow a political realignment that will occur after the 2010 Census, which is used to determine the reapportionment of seats in the House of Representatives. Texas, which had the biggest population growth of last year, 478,000 people, is among the states that stand to gain seats, and states in the Northeast and Midwest could lose.

The economy has reshuffled the growth rates of states, transplanting some onto the losing side of the ledger for the first time in recent memory, according to William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution.