March 21, 2013
As the traumas of the popped housing bubble gave way to the broader
calamities of the Great Recession, a refrain arose from America’s elites: The Sun Belt is finally getting
For decades, reporters, pundits, and academics in the D.C.-to-Boston
corridor grumbled as their terrain hemorrhaged jobs, investment, residents,
and political influence. The growth of the Sun Belt, a region identified by
Kevin Phillips in The
Emerging Republican Majority, appeared unstoppable. A 2001 Fannie Mae
Foundation analysis documented that between 1950 and 2000, the population below
37th parallel expanded by 156 percent, compared to a nationwide increase of
86 percent. Clark County, Nevada
(2,749 percent), Arizona (584 percent), and Florida (477 percent) ranked
at the top of the territory’s eruption.
But when home prices began to sag in 2006, and widespread economic
disaster hit in late 2007, the Sun Belt’s streak fizzled. By the spring of 2009,
the Associated Press declared that the boom was over, “replaced by a bust that
has left some swaths of the region suffering as severely as anywhere in the
current recession.” USA
TODAY wrote that hard times had spawned “an about-face in where Americans
choose to live,” with “New York
[registering] the smallest outmigration since at least 1990.” In September
2011, The New York Times noted --
gleefully, perhaps? -- that “the highest unemployment rates” were in the South
Snickering beyond the borders, despair inside the region. In
2009, The Arizona Republic’s Betty
Beard lamented that “Arizona has lost a larger
percentage of jobs in this recession than Michigan, even as that state’s auto-based
economy continued to melt down.”
Alas, the reversal is being reversed. USA TODAY recently discovered that the Sun
Belt is “recovering some of its lost appeal as the population begins to grow
again in counties from Florida to Arizona.”
“Even the deepest recession since the Great Depression cannot permanently
disrupt the decades-long trend of growth in the South and West,” UNLV’s Robert
Lang told the newspaper. Things, the professor noted, “are slowly getting back
to where they were.”
The last five years have been brutal to metropolitan Las Vegas. Unemployment
hovered above 14 percent in 2010 and 2011. But joblessness declined to 12.5
percent in January 2012, and fell to 10.2 percent in January 2013. Clark County,
home to Sin City’s sprawl, recently acquired its 2
millionth denizen, thanks, the Las Vegas Review-Journal found, “to an influx of
new residents not seen in years.”
According to the
Heart of Dixie’s chief executive, in 2012, 432 new and expanding companies
announced plans to create more than 20,000 jobs in Alabama, making a total capital investment
of $5.4 billion. Examples: Airbus
is bringing 1,000 jobs to Mobile, and China’s
Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tube Group plans to hire 300 workers in rural
Wilcox County. The state’s already-low unemployment rate of 6.6 percent is
likely to keep dropping.
Some members of the Sun Belt continue to struggle -- North Carolina and Mississippi
each endure unemployment rates above 9 percent. But jobless rates in Oklahoma (5.1 percent), Louisiana
(5.9 percent) and New Mexico
(6.6 percent) are well below the national figure. And Texas? Please. Unemployment there peaked at
8.3 percent in early 2010. It’s down to 6.3 percent today. In the last 12
alone has created 118,200 new positions.
The future looks just as good, if not better. Texas
is making a habit of filching businesses disgusted by California’s collectivist pols, and its roaring
oil-and-gas sector is poised to offer livelihoods to tens of thousands of
refugees from no-growth states.
Wendell Cox, an invaluable land-use
and transportation scholar, crunched
population statistics for major metropolitan areas between 2011 and 2012.
The ten with the highest gains -- including Orlando,
San Antonio, and Phoenix -- are located in the Sun Belt. Nine are
in right-to-work states, and six are in no-income-tax states.
see a pattern? Probably not, if you’re a member of the legacy media or an “expert”
who claims to know demographics. For
folks who talk incessantly about “sustainability,” blue-state blowhards stubbornly
ignore the undesirable effects of high taxes, housing-hostile “smart growth,” wasteful
“public investments,” runaway energy meddling, and unchecked union machinations.
Most in the Sun Belt don’t. That’s why the region was knocked down, but not
out, during the Great Recession.
Northeast’s Nanny Statists persist in believing that their policies generate
economic growth and foster a stellar quality of life. It’s a soothing fantasy,
but one that grows tougher to hold as the Sun Belt’s comeback strengthens.
D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.
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