U-Haul data: The big cities that people left in 2020 and where they went

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In this March 18, 2020 file photo, students finish loading belongings into a U-Haul truck as they move out of their dorm in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

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The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t stop people from moving this year.

According to data released by U-Haul Monday, Americans are moving “in growing numbers, and have been since May.”

“While some people were hesitant to move during shelter-in-place mandates, those who moved were doing so out of necessity,” U-Haul President John “J.T.” Taylor said. 

U-Haul saw a 72% increase in one-way travel during May, a peak time during the pandemic, a 13% in crease in June and a 15% increase in July.

Where are people leaving? Two of the biggest metro areas in the country, New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area.

But the trend wasn’t limited to the two coastal cities. From March through June, the 30 most-populated cities saw more U-Haul trucks depart than arrive, indicating that people who were able to move sought escape from crowded urban centers.

In 2019 San Francisco saw slightly more U-Haul arrivals than departures, but in the following year, departures accounted for 58 percent of all one-way U-Haul traffic from March to June. Ratios in San Jose, Calif. and Oakland, Calif. were similar.

Meanwhile, arrivals to the Bay Area between March and December dropped 31 percent year over year.

New York City also saw more arrivals than departures in 2019, but like San Francisco, “severe stagnation” occurred over the shutdown. Arrivals likewise plummeted by 58 percent from March to June in 2020.

Where are people moving when they leave the two coastal hubs? Largely, they are going to more affordable cities. According to U-Haul, customers leaving the Bay Area during the pandemic moved to Sacramento/Roseville, San Diego and Stockton. These movers went to the following states outside of California as well: Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Texas, Utah, Idaho and New Mexico.

Whether the Bay Area exodus is attributed to the pandemic or high housing prices remains to be seen.

The top destination cities from New York City included Bridgeport, Conn., Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and New Haven, Conn. These movers went to the following states outside of New York: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland, Florida, Rhode Island and North Carolina

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