In mid-2016, looking at Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data for that year, I found that after years of rapid growth New York City’s labor force, people working and looking for work, had stopped growing when compared with a year earlier, and in some months had declined. I wondered if the millennials, faced with low wages (or just freelance gigs), high rents, high taxes and declining services were finally leaving, or not coming to, New York.
Checking data for other metros, I found that labor force growth had slowed or reversed in other large coastal metro areas with high costs of living, such as Boston and San Francisco, while picking up in other metros that were more affordable.
A year later, American Community Survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau was released for 2016, and had similar findings.
Boston appears to have hit what some demographers call “peak millennial,” according to an analysis from Time magazine. That analysis looked at the number of millennials—the nation’s youngest cohort of adults—who have exited Boston proper in recent years. Roughly 7,000 exited in 2016, after the city reached a record high of 259,000 millennials calling Boston home in 2015.
Other larger East Coast cities such as New York and Washington are seeing a similar trend and the reason is clear: Housing costs. Millennials get to a certain ripe old age—say, 27—and decide they want space for themselves and a potential family more than they want convenient access to decent avocado toast. While things might change given the effects a federal tax overhaul could have on the Boston housing market, the trend of millennial exodus is expected to continue.
But has it? I downloaded the latest BLS data to find out.