DAYTON, Ohio (AP) - More people moved out of Ohio again last year than moved into the state, but an improving economy is helping to close the gap.
An analysis of U.S. Census data showed Ohio lost 14,271 more people than it gained in 2011. That's the lowest net loss since 2005.
Experts said the slowing net outflow corresponds with improvements to Ohio's job market and unemployment rate. Job opportunities are one of the primary drivers of domestic migration, and Ohio's economy has recovered faster than some other Midwestern states.
According to census data, Ohio lost 14,271 of its population in 2011.
"Most people will move to where a job is, and move from where a job is not," said Bill LaFayette, owner of Columbus-based Regionomics, an economic and workforce-strategy firm. "We are attracting people from states where things are worse."
Still, experts said, Ohio continues to lose more people than it gains partly because it has struggled to attract immigrants, who are primary contributors to population growth nationwide.
In 2011, about 206,049 Ohio residents moved to other states, while 191,778 people moved here, according to census data. The net loss was down 7 percent from 2010 and 61 percent from 2009. It was the smallest loss in at least six years.
Often people relocate to other states to be closer to family members or attend school. And many older Ohioans move to states with better climates to retire. Some of the biggest beneficiaries of Ohio's migration were warm-weather states, including North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and California.
Mobility fell to historically low levels in 2010 as a result of the recession. The housing crisis meant many homeowners were underwater and were unable to sell their homes. This prevented people from moving to chase economic opportunities.
But mobility is rising again. Last year, more people migrated to and from Ohio than did in 2010. It was the second straight year of increases in people moving into the state.
Ohio is attracting more people from other states because its economy is in better shape than some of its Midwestern counterparts, said Mark Salling, research associate with the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University.
"Ohio's economy is doing better than many other states," Salling said.
The analysis was conducted by the Dayton Daily News.