By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

Montana saw more inbound migration than outbound in 2016, though the figures were close enough to call it even, according to data released this month by one of the nation's largest moving companies.

Other area trucking companies reported similar trends, calling Montana even while Idaho continued to lead the way with inbound moves. Wyoming was at the opposite end of the scale, recording more outbound moves than newcomers.

Since 1993, Atlas Van Lines has crunched the numbers on the origin and destination of its interstate moves, resulting in a snapshot of the nation's relocation patterns. While other companies track similar data, Atlas widely distributes its results.

According to the latest figures, 26 states – including Montana – registered a balanced number of inbound and outbound moves. Fifteen states saw more people leave than arrive, and nine states saw more inbound traffic than outbound.

The total number of interstate moves were down this year, according to Jack Griffin, CEO of Atlas World Group.

"The moving industry as a whole has contracted annually over the last five years, but we've been fortunate to see a consistent increase in moves during that time until this year,” said Griffin. “We are cautiously optimistic that we'll see an uptick in 2017 for all types of moves, but we're aware of the economic headwinds that lie ahead of us.”

The number of interstate moves provided by Atlas topped 75,000 in 2016, down from 77,700 the year before. For the fifth straight year, California saw the highest number of total moves at nearly 15,000, followed by Texas at roughly 12,000 and Florida with just over 10,000.

Of all the states, Idaho saw the greatest inbound gains at 63 percent, followed by Oregon at 62 percent. Wyoming topped the list for the greatest outbound traffic at 63 percent, followed by Nebraska at 61 percent.

Roughly 54 percent of Montana's moves were inbound, with 238 people arriving and 204 leaving, placing the state in Atlas' “balanced” category. In 2013 and 2008, Montana was listed in the “inbound” category, with significantly more people arriving than leaving.


Merganthaler Transfer and Storage, an agent of United Van Lines, reported similar trends.

“South Dakota was one of the new states that are receiving more inbound,” said a representative at Merganthaler who asked not to be named. “Idaho has been increasing, and Oregon. Montana was pretty much even, with just about as much going out as coming in.”

Local city and economic leaders say Missoula's population is growing at an estimated 1,200 residents annually. Yet Tom Northy with Montana Transfer Co. - an agent of North American Van Lines – said most of their business involves outbound moves.

“Missoula is growing – all the houses and apartments are getting filled up,” said Northy. “But we have more contact with people moving out.”

The latest study marks the first year Idaho has been the inbound leader. Wyoming topped the outbound list back in 2012 as well, according to Atlas.