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>N.J. remains likely to forfeit House seat, new data show

>December 23, 2008

N.J. remains likely to forfeit House seat, new data show


New Jersey still appears likely to lose a seat in the House of Representatives despite a slowing of the migration to the South and West, new Census figures indicate.

The population estimates released Monday by the Census Bureau show the nation’s great migration south and west is declining, thanks to a housing crisis that is making it hard for many to move. Most southern and western states aren’t growing nearly as fast as they were at the start of the decade, pausing a long-term trend fueled by the desire for open spaces and warmer climates.

The development could impact the political map when House seats are divvied up following the 2010 Census, and New Jersey has been pegged as a likely loser.

In response to the possible loss of a House seat, officials from the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development told lawmakers at a hearing in October they were were striving to ensure every person in the state is counted.

According to the figures released Monday, Southern and Western states still will take congressional seats away from those in the Northeast and Midwest. Florida could gain as many as two House seats, and Texas could pick up four. But some seats hanging in the balance could stay put, and California could be in danger of losing a seat for the first time since it became a state.

“People want to go to where it’s warm and where there are a lot of amenities. That’s a long-term trend in this country,” said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

“But people have stopped moving,” he said. “It’s a big risk when you move to a new place. You need to know that moving and getting a new mortgage is going to pay off for you.”

The Census Bureau released state population estimates as of July 1, 2008. The data show annual changes through births, deaths, and domestic and foreign migration.

According to the estimates, New Jersey’s population is 8,682,661, up 3.2 percent from 2000. Despite the increase, other states grew at faster rates, leading to the possible loss of one of New Jersey’s 13 House seats.

The population shifts will be felt following the 2010 census, when the nation apportions the 435 seats in the House of Representatives, based on population.

Texas stands to be the biggest winner, picking up as many as four seats, while Ohio could be the big loser, giving up as many as two seats, according to projections by Kim Brace of Election Data Services, a Virginia-based firm that crunches political numbers.

Other states projected to lose single seats are Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Brace projects Arizona to add two seats, while Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina and Utah could add one each. Florida could add one or two seats, Brace said.

Utah was the fastest growing state, knocking Nevada from the top ranks. Utah’s population climbed by 2.5 percent from July 2007 to July 2008. It was followed by Arizona, Texas, North Carolina and Colorado. Nevada was ranked eighth, after 23 years of ranking in the top four each year.

Nevada was listed as the fastest growing state a year ago when the 2007 estimates were released. But adjustments to the 2007 numbers, released Monday, show that Utah was the fastest growing state in 2007 and Nevada was ranked third.

Only two states — Michigan and Rhode Island — lost population from 2007 to 2008, according to the new estimates. But growth rates fell in many states, even for those that had been adding residents at a rapid clip.

Foreign immigration has slowed since the start of the decade and fewer people are moving around within the nation’s borders. Florida has attracted more people from other states than any other state in the nation since the start of the decade. However, from 2007 to 2008, more people left Florida for other states than moved in — a net loss of nearly 9,300 people. The state still gained population from births and foreign immigration, but growth was slower than in previous years.

From 2007 to 2008, California had the biggest net loss of people moving to other states — more than 144,000 people. It was followed by New York, Michigan, New Jersey and Illinois.

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