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Economic update breakfast

We all want to know how the economy is doing these days, don't we? The Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce will host their monthly Business Connections breakfast at 6:30 a.m. Friday at the Mirabeau Park Hotel, 1100 N. Sullivan Road. The featured speaker will be Grant Forsyth, Chief Economist at Avista Corp., who will give a mid-year economic update. The program will begin at 7 a.m. The cost is $25 for members or $35 for non-members. Call (509) 924-4994 or visit www.spokanevalleychamber.org to register.

Census: Number of Spokane businesses dropped

Spokane County had fewer businesses in 2011 than it did in pre-recession 2007, new Census figures show. Annual payroll was down and the number of businesses in all size categories had fallen — except one. That category is businesses with more than 1,000 employees.

There were nine businesses with 1,000 or more paid employees in 2011, up from seven in 2007, Census data shows.

The report, called “County Business Patterns: 2011,” doesn’t break down employers by name.

But according to the Journal of Business Book of Lists, the over-1,000 crowd for 2011 includes Spokane’s two big hospitals and Rockwood Clinic; URM and Wal-Mart; Avista; Northern Quest Casino; West Corp., the big call-center company; and Gonzaga University. The Census table doesn’t include most government employees.

Spokane County had 12,151 business establishments in 2011, compared with 12,961 in 2007. The largest category is very small businesses, with one to four employees. There were 6,410 such businesses in 2011, down from 6,648 in 2007.

 


  

Westslope Fly Shop closes after two years

 FISHING —  “We are pretty proud of the store we designed and built all of the store fixtures and displays,” said Jesse Clark in November 2010.  
 
He and his son, John Clark, had just opened Westslope Fly Shop in the Riverwalk building at1003 E. Trent, next to Northern Lights Brewery.
 
Just 23 months later, the economy had consumed their efforts.
 
 “We closed the shop on Oct. 24,” Clark wrote in an email while I was on a hunting vacation the past two weeks.
“We just couldn't make it. The economic situation just kept hammering us. With the uncertainty of the economy on everybody's minds the willingness to spend money on a hobby got weaker and weaker.
 
“We enjoyed the time we were in business, made a lot of friends and worked with local clubs to improve fishing opportunities in the area.
 
“A mention of our appreciation in one of your columns would be appreciated.”
 

Economy Snags Symphony, Too

Things are tough all over – even, it turns out, in the acoustic and architectural wonderland of the Fox Theater. A labor dispute has erupted between the Spokane Symphony’s musicians and administrators, and the tune is depressingly familiar: The economy is doing a number on an organization, and the resulting scramble to keep the ship afloat has resulted in cuts in staff, pay and morale. After months of negotiations, the symphony has imposed a contract on the musicians that amounts to a 13 percent pay cut. That comes after musicians agreed to a 10 percent pay cut in 2009 and gave up contracted raises last year to help the struggling symphony, musicians say. “It’s really disrespectful of the musicians,” said Alaina Bercilla, 30, the 2nd flute/piccolo in the orchestra. “It’s difficult not to take it personally and not be offended by what they’re offering us”/Shawn Vestal, SR. More here.

Question: Are you a Spokane Symphony fan?

Idaho jobless rate falls to 7.1%

The unemployment rate in Idaho fell to 7.1 percent in September, the lowest rate since May 2009 and down from 7.4 percent in August.

But the state also has seen its labor force shrink four straight months, including the first August-September decline since the 1986 recession, the Idaho Department of Labor said Friday.

Employers in Idaho expanded payrolls last month at a higher rate than in the past five years, and at a slightly faster pace than during the expansion of 2003-07, the state reported.

Another 1,200 workers were on the job in September, pushing total employment to 720,600 – its highest level in four years – and breaking a two-month employment slide.

The jobless rate last month fell to 9 percent in Kootenai County; it was 11.5 percent a year ago. The rate hit 8.1 percent in Coeur d’Alene last month, down from 10.7 percent in September 2011.

Elsewhere in North Idaho, the September rate was 12.4 percent in Benewah County, 10.3 percent in Bonner County, 10.2 percent in Boundary County, and 12.1 percent in Shoshone County.

NIC Has $146M Impact On Region

What if North Idaho College didn't exist? A recent economic impact study shows there would be a $164.6 million hole in the region's economy. Conducted by EMSI (Economic Modeling Specialists, Intl.), the results of the study were presented to trustees Wednesday during their regular monthly meeting. “This is a really important study to undertake because, especially in our current economy, education is perceived as a budget item, a cost item, and not an investment,” said Gabriel Rench, a representative of the Moscow-based EMSI. EMSI analyzed NIC's investment value to students and taxpayers and also reviewed the college's effect on the economic growth of Idaho's five northern regions/Maureen Dolan, Coeur d'Alene Press. More here.

Question: And you wonder why the election for the Board of Trustees for North Idaho College is important?

Jobless rate still falling in Idaho, but labor force shrinking

The unemployment rate fell in August across North Idaho and statewide, due in part to fewer people seeking jobs.

The Idaho rate fell to 7.4 percent, down slightly from July. In Kootenai County, the August jobless rate was 9 percent, down from 9.3 percent the month before.

The rate was lower in Bonner, Boundary, Benewah and Shoshone counties as well.

The loss of 2,600 workers from the state’s labor force – the first July-to-August decline since 1980 – offset an increase in hiring by employers at a rate just above their recession-era average, said Bob Fick, spokesman for the Idaho Department of Labor.

The August jobless rate statewide was the lowest in more than three years, but it also was the third straight month Idaho’s labor force has contracted, Fick explained.

The loss of more than 5,500 from the workforce through the summer was the largest three-month exodus of workers on record in the state and has left the labor force at its lowest level since January.

Still, there were 17,000 more people working in Idaho in August than a year earlier, and 11,000 fewer unemployed. In the past 13 months, the jobless rate has dropped a point and a half from a recession high of 8.9 percent.

Employers may be picking up their hiring, Fick said. Businesses report hiring 18,400 workers in August, mostly to replace workers who retired, were fired, found other jobs or left for some other reason. That rate of hiring matches the average August new hires during the economic expansion from 2003 through 2007, he said.

Retail sales up in most places, but not in Spokane

Taxable retail sales as well as retail trade fell in Spokane last year, unlike most other metro areas, including its plucky offspring, Spokane Valley.

Taxable sales totaled $3.6 billion in Spokane in 2011, a 1.2 percent dip over 2010, the state Department of Revenue said today.

And retail trade, a component of all taxable sales that includes retailers but excludes other industries, was $1.8 billion in Spokane last year. That's a decline of 2.3 percent over 2010.

The numbers were better elsewhere. Statewide, taxable sales increased 3 percent, and were up 4.2 percent in King County, 5.7 percent in Vancouver and 6.6 percent in Seattle. Sales did dip 0.6 percent in Tacoma and 1 percent in Pierce County.

And despite the slowdown in Spokane, taxable retail sales were up 2.2 percent throughout Spokane County, to $6.9 billion. The retail trade in the county rose 1.4 percent last year, to $3.4 billion.

And that brings us to Spokane Valley: retail sales in 2011 were $1.7 billion, or 5.9 percent higher than the year before. Retail trade there was up 5.3 percent year over year.

In other local cities, taxable retail sales in 2011 were:

Airway Heights: up 2.3 percent

Cheney: up 20 percent

Deer Park: down 9 percent

Liberty Lake: up 10 percent

Medical Lake: up 17 percent

Millwood: up 3 percent

Layoff A Shock After Life Of Work

Linda Hall, of Spokane, has worked hard all her life but hasn’t earned any respect from the labor market. Laid off for the first time at age 62, Hall has no health insurance, not enough savings for retirement and almost no chance of getting hired again. “A year ago I was absolutely certain that I had job security,” Hall said. “Change is a part of life. But, truthfully, until a few weeks before (getting laid off), I just didn’t see it coming and couldn’t imagine such a thing happening.” Like many older workers, Hall is confronting America’s new economic reality. “If you worked hard, chances are you’d have a job for life, with a decent paycheck and good benefits and the occasional promotion,” President Barack Obama lamented in his 2011 State of the Union Address. “That world has changed”/Arthur Delaney, Huffington Post. More here. (Rajah Bose photo: At age 62, Linda Hall, of Spokane, was laid off for the first time. She was a caterer at the Spokane Club)

Question: Have you ever been laid off?

IFF To Govt: Stop Economic Plotting

I have an amazing job that lets me travel the state to talk about free markets. During these travels, I get to hear from and talk to numerous local elected officials who truly care about their communities. Unfortunately, many of these officials think they have a supernatural understanding of their local marketplaces and the ability to manipulate these markets to be whatever they want them to be. It really doesn’t matter where I go: Nampa, Boise, Pocatello, Ketchum, Post Falls or Sandpoint. Every town has self-proclaimed economic gurus who are making judgments about how to use taxpayer dollars to achieve unparalleled levels of economic prosperity/Wayne Hoffman, Idaho Freedom Foundation. More here.

Question: What role should local government play in economic planning?

Washington jobless rate at 8.7%, lowest since 2009

OLYMPIA — Private-sector job growth has pushed Washington’s unemployment rate to the lowest point since February 2009, officials said today.

The Employment Security Department said the drop to 8.7 percent unemployment in November came with the state adding 12,100 jobs. The jobless rate was down from 9.1 percent in October.  

“This is the kind of job growth we need to make a good dent in the unemployment rate,” said Greg Weeks, director of the Employment Security Department’s labor-market information office, in a statement.  

The state has added jobs in 13 of the past 14 months, but it has usually come in smaller chunks.   

The November numbers show growth across much of the private sector. The professional and business services sector added 4,200 jobs. Leisure and hospitality grew by 3,800. Construction was up 2,000 jobs.  
Government posted a slight decline in jobs.  

More than 300,000 people in Washington were unemployed and looking for work in October, according to the Employment Security Department. As of Saturday, some 68,000 workers had exhausted their unemployment benefits.  

Washington’s numbers followed the national trend for November. The U.S. unemployment rate dropped from 9 percent to 8.6 percent.

Spokane County jobless rate 8.3% in October

Seasonal hiring of educators and retail workers helped push Spokane County’s unemployment rate down last month. It fell to 8.3 percent in October, down from September’s revised rate of 8.4 percent.

It’s the lowest rate so far this year but remains high than in October 2010, when unemployment was 8.1 percent. There were about 5,000 more jobs here one year ago, said Doug Tweedy, regional economist for the state Employment Security Department.

October typically has the highest employment rate of the year as schools bring on teachers and staff, and as stores get ready for the holiday shopping season. The local economy supports about 25,000 retail jobs, which is up 280 jobs over last October.

But the public sector continues to be a drag on the economy due to federal, state and local government layoffs – a trend that will persist into 2012, Tweedy said.

“We’re still making up for lost jobs over the year,” he said.

Private employers, however, have added about 800 jobs this year in Spokane County. The bulk of those have been in the manufacturing and health care sectors.

Another positive sign is that initial claims for unemployment benefits are down to 2007 levels, which tweedy said can be a leading indicator of job growth.

Statewide, unemployment in October was at 8.3 percent, down from 8.8 percent in October 2010.

Not a list we aspire to make

Different organizations regularly put out lists of cities that they think are the most livable, most environmental, best for kids or seniors or families.

And then there are the other lists, the mirror images of the ones above.

Daily Beast has a new list of the latter category. Brokest Cities in America.

And no, Spokane isn't on it. In fact there's only one city from Washington or Idaho on it.

So, see. Things could be worse.

A slight improvement in North Idaho jobs picture

The high unemployment rate in parts of North Idaho fell a little last month – the first positive sign in a year or more.

The jobless rate in August was 11.6 percent in Kootenai County, down from 11.8 percent in July, the Idaho Department of Labor reported today.

Bonner County also saw a dip of two-tenths of a percentage point, to 14.1 percent. And in Benewah County, the rate dropped to 14.3 percent in August, down from 14.9 percent a month earlier.

Shoshone County, however, saw a slight increase in unemployment claims, to 15.9 percent, as did Boundary County, which hit 15.3 percent in August.

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of a percentage point in August, falling to its lowest level in 15 months. Although the rate was estimated at 9.2 percent – the lowest since May 2010 – 70,000 people were still out of work around the state.

The state tracked about 13,250 persons on unemployment in the five northern counties last month. That was 200 fewer than in July.

Crapo Balks At Obama Tax Hike Talk

President Barack Obama's engagement in job creation is “welcome,” Sen. Mike Crapo said this week, and it's time for Congress and the White House to get past its “tired, back-and-forth political battles” and produce results. But in his weekly guest opinion to Idaho newspapers, the Republican senior senator staked out his side on what could be Capitol Hill's next “back-and-forth political battle.” He rejected what has emerged as the centerpiece of the $450 billion Obama jobs plan: financing job programs by increasing taxes on upper-income groups. “The misguided talk of some in Washington in favor of tax hikes at a time when the economy cannot stand it is incomprehensible,” Crapo wrote/Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman. More here. (AP file photo)

Question: Should taxes be raised on upper-income groups to finance job programs?

July jobless rate hits 9 percent in Spokane County

Spokane County's unemployment rate ticked up a notch in July, to 9 percent. The jobless rate in June was 8.9 percent, and in July 2010 it was 9.1 percent.

There were 20,250 unemployed workers in the county last month, according to the Washington Employment Security Department. That's down slightly from 20,840 unemployed workers in June.

The jobless rate last month hit 11 percent in Stevens County, 11.6 percent in Pend Oreille County, and nearly 13 percent in Ferry County.

Elsewhere in the region, the July rate was 7.5 percent in Whitman County, 7.6 percent in Adams County and 7.9 percent in Lincoln County.

Employment picture not improving in N. Idaho

The Idaho Labor Department today released the July unemployment numbers, and the news is not encouraging in North Idaho.

Four of the five counties in the panhandle saw the unemployment rate go up last month, and the rate remained the same in the fifth: Kootenai County.

Here's the breakdown:

Kootenai County (including Coeur d'Alene): 11.7 percent, unchanged from June.

Shoshone County (including Kellogg): 15.8 percent, up from 14.7 percent in June.

Boundary County (including Bonners Ferry): 15.1 percent, up from 14.5 in June.

Benewah (including St. Maries): 15 percent, up from 14.6 percent in June.

Bonner (includiing Sandpoint): 14.2 percent, up from 13.4 percent in June.

In Post Falls, the rate ticked downward last month, to 12.3 percent. It was 12.9 percent in June.

In Ceoru d'Alene, the rate was 11.9 percent in July, down a tad from 12 percent.

State economist: Risk of recession increasing

OLYMPIA — Washington's economic outlook for the current budget cycle has gone from cautiously optimistic to “a sinking feeling of pessimism,” the state's chief economist said Thursday.

“The risk of the economy slipping back into recession has increased significantly,” Arun Raha said in the latest economic and revenue update.

In June, Raha was confident that Washington and the rest of the United States would avoid a “double dip recession” and that growth would continue, although slowly.

Since then, debt problems have spread beyond in Europe, the U.S. government barely avoided a default on U.S. bonds but couldn't escape a downgrading by a major rating agency, and consumer confidence “is in the tank.”

State job growth hasn't been as strong as projected, the single-family housing construction sector remains flat, banks and local governments have been laying off workers and about the only manufacturing sector growing is aerospace.

Oh, and by the way, state revenue collections are down about $9 million below forecast since June.

The next full revenue forecast is due in mid September. A significant drop in projected revenues could lead to a call by some legislators for a special session to make deeper cuts, sooner.
State agencies already were ordered to identify ways they could cut their budget by as much as 10 percent.

Johnson: The System Barely Worked

Already the pundits predict a second major political meltdown when the Gang of 12 fails in their task to recommend the next major steps just as the holiday season descends on battle weary Americans who don’t seem to trust anyone on anything, especially when it comes to the economy and fiscal policy. A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey finds broad support – as in 77 percent support – for the notion that Washington’s leaders “acted like spoiled children” in reaching the deal on debt and deficits. Trying to explain American politics to a British audience, historian Robert Dallek writes in the Daily Telegraph that, “something is at work here that makes you wonder if rational discourse is beyond the capacity of many American voters to understand”/Marc Johnson, The Johnson Post. More here.

Question: Describe the next financial crisis this country will face as a result of congressional/presidential squabbling?

Report: Thousands out of benefits, still out of work

A recent survey of Washington workers who failed to find work before running out of unemployment benefits revealed that three out of four of them remain jobless.

The survey also shows that 80 percent of those back at work earn less than in their former jobs – on average, about 29 percent less.

Of those who returned to work, about 19 percent found jobs out of state.

The state’s Employment Security Department emailed a survey in April to nearly 32,000 individuals who had run out of unemployment benefits since November 2009, and 5,065 people responded. The claimants had access to as many as 99 weeks of unemployment benefits.

Employment Security sought to find out if exhaustees have returned to work, the employment services they’re using and the barriers they’re running into while looking for new jobs.

Employment Security Commissioner Paul Trause said the survey findings shed valuable insight on what is happening to workers who run out of unemployment benefits.

“The survey contradicts the perception that unemployed workers wait until their benefits run out, then quickly find work,” Trause said.  “We know there aren’t enough jobs to go around right now, but there may be additional factors that keep employers from hiring these workers.”

Idaho’s unemployment rate remains at 9.4%

BOISE — The Idaho Department of Labor says the statewide unemployment held steady at 9.4 percent in June.

The agency released the latest jobless numbers today, saying the Idaho labor pool shrunk for the first time in 10 months as fewer jobs were created and more than 1,800 unemployed workers either gave up their search or left the state in June.

Idaho’s jobless rate fell to 9.4 percent in May, down from 9.6 percent in April.

The labor department says more than 30,000 unemployed workers collected $28.8 million in benefits last month, which is down compared to a year ago when more than 38,000 workers received $41.7 million in June 2010.

The state reports more than 10,600 unemployed workers have exhausted their benefits and are still without work.

Fewer people sought unemployment aid last week

The number of people applying for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level in seven weeks, although applications remain elevated, the Associated Press reports.

The Labor Department said today that applications for benefits dropped by 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 418,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, declined for the first time in four weeks, to 424,750.

Applications have topped 400,000 for 13 weeks, evidence the job market has weakened since the beginning of the year. Applications had fallen in February to 375,000, a level that signals sustainable job growth. They stayed below 400,000 for seven of the next nine weeks. But then applications surged to an eight-month high of 478,000 in April and have shown only modest improvement since.

The government will release its June employment report Friday. Economists expect employers added a net total of 90,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate remained stuck at 9.1 percent, according to a survey by FactSet.

Tweeters ask Obama about jobs, taxes, economy

President Barack Obama answered questions about jobs, the economy, taxes, welfare and space programs in the first Twitter Town Hall meeting.

But nothing about marijuana, which was among the most “retweeted” topics before the session started.

The session allowed people around the country to send questions to Obama at the White House with a Twitter moderator. He acknowledged that he underestimated the recession and talked about the debt ceiling talks taking place this week.

For a complete transcript of the 90 minute session, courtesy of the White House Press Office, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Builders start more homes but pace still slow

WASHINGTON — Builders broke ground on more new homes in May, but not enough to signal a recovery in the troubled housing market.

Home construction rose 3.5 percent from April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 560,000 units per year, the Commerce Department said today.

Economists say the pace of construction is far below the 1.2 million homes per year that must be built to sustain a healthy housing market. Many credit-strapped builders are struggling to compete with low-priced foreclosures.

Housing permits, a gauge of future construction, rose last month to the highest level since December. But apartment and condominium construction accounted for a large portion of that increase. Renting has become a preferred option for many Americans who lost their jobs in the recession and who were forced to leave their rapidly depreciating homes.

FBI says bank robberies have dipped about 8 percent in first quarter 2011

Our pals at the FBI recently caught our attention by noting that bank robberies for the first quarter of 2011 are down about 8 percent from the year before.

The statistical summary is at this link at FBI.gov's media page: http://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/fbi-releases-bank-crime-statistics-for-first-quarter-of-2011

It's hard not to get speculative on that downturn. Either the amount of money sitting in banks is down and hence, less appealing to would-be felons.

Or the number of financial institutions is down and with it, the number of folks who stroll by a building in their neighborhood one day and form the crazy idea that they're this generation's Willie Sutton.

To be clear, we regard this as a very positive piece of news.

Is there a civic-minded billionaire?

Good afternoon, Netizens…

According to cartoonist David Horsey, is there such a thing as a civic-minded billionaire, or are they all as self-serving as this cartoon suggests they may be?

I've been in the homes of a few billionaires and millionaires and in nearly every instance they seem so understated about how wealthy they are. It's like the difference between examining the clothing of a middle-class route salesman who travels around his district attempting to sell whatever product(s) he/she has to offer and the clothing of a billionaire in some cases. One possible exception, of course, is Warren Buffett who prefers to drive his own middle-class automobile rather than a limousine and dresses in natty suits. In some cases it is difficult to tell a billionaire from a route salesman, and perhaps they like it that way.

Behind every Buffett or Microsoft's Bill Gates, there beats the heart of a philanthropist, if you believe any of the PR which they are quite capable of generating. In some cases the philanthropy is genuine enough. Gates has donated millions of dollars to worthy causes, as has Buffett. Both men have extensively donated to charitable causes, and despite how they live or dress, they have lengthy histories of giving to those less-fortunate in life. Where does one draw the line between charity and being civic-minded?

According to Horsey's cartoon, perhaps the real test of a billionaire's civic-mindedness is how many new jobs they have created in our current economy. Economic development always seems to come back to native American ingenuity; the ability to take a good idea from scratch and make something of it, including the creation of new jobs in any given community. You do not have to be a billionaire to make that happen, but if you believe economic history, a lot of billionaires have been made with just a few good ideas mixed with seed capital.

Perhaps one of the truly outstanding facets of life in Spokane is how charitable ordinary citizens, not the billionaires, have proven themselves to be over time, for without their civic-mindedness, Spokane could be a lot more grim a landscape in which to live than it already is. Of course, your opinions may differ…

Dave

Idaho tax revenue beats expectations

Idaho’s January tax revenue likely beat forecasts by about $15 million. The news, which indicates the economy could be picking up steam, may help mitigate concerns that arose last week about a yawning $185 million budget hole.

Division of Financial Management director Wayne Hammon confirmed the preliminary figure to The Associated Press.

The robust January receipts come despite $9 million in unexpected sales tax rebates paid out to alternative energy companies. Still, this news likely won’t ease lawmakers’ job of determining what revenue figure to budget to when they set the 2012 spending plan, due to start next July 1.

For instance, legislators still must decide whether to synchronize Idaho’s tax code with new federal tax rules, a move that could cost Idaho an estimated $70 million over two years.

Joblessness creeps up in December

Washington added an estimated 2,100 jobs in December, with the manufacturing and retail sectors leading hiring. Still, the estimated unemployment rate increased slightly from 9.2 percent to 9.3 percent, the state reported this morning.

Job numbers and the unemployment rate are derived from separate surveys. Due to margins of error, the surveys sometimes generate conflicting results.

In Spokane County, the unemployment rate was 9.1 percent in December. That's up from a rate of 8.6 percent in November, and down slightly from 9.3 percent a year ago. Unemployed workers in the county totaled 21,990 last month, up from 21,030 a month earlier, the state said.
  

Idaho unemployment rises to 9.5 percent

The Idaho Department of Labor says the state’s December unemployment rate was higher than the national average for the first time in nearly a decade.

Idaho’s projected seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for December rose for the fifth straight month to 9.5 percent, leaving 71,900 workers without jobs.

Nationally, the unemployment rate dropped 0.4 points to 9.4 percent for December.

Based on current data, Idaho’s average unemployment rate for 2010 was a record 9.2 percent, breaking the previous record of 9 percent set in 1982.

Washington state saw more people leaving than coming in 2010, according to survey

Are times really that bad?

Atlas Van Lines, which tracks traffic across these united states, said Washington saw more people move out during 2010 than moved in.

That was the first outflow from WA since 2002, according to the survey of U.S. movement patterns.

Their study found that 2,159 people moved into Washington and that 2,412 moved out of the state in 2010.

And generally, more Americans moved around in  2010 than in 2009. The Atlast press release suggested that's a sign of an economic uplight. It could be read in just the opposite sense; more people are leaving one state hoping things are better in larger states.

The study also noted:

For the fifth consecutive year, Washington, D.C., had the highest percentage of inbound moves, and Ohio had the highest percentage of outbound moves.

The northeastern Rust Belt region continued to see the highest number of outbound moves, a trend that could be due to high unemployment there.