PHOENIX - New figures Monday from the U.S. Census Bureau showed the number of people moving to Arizona in 2011 from other states slightly exceeded the number of folks who decided to seek fame and fortune elsewhere.
Arizona gained 222,877 people from the other 49 states. The biggest surge came from California, which contributed nearly 50,000 to this state's ranks.
But the flow was not one way.
The Census Bureau said nearly 212,000 people who previously called Arizona their home at the beginning of last year ended up in some other state by the time 2012 rolled around, including nearly 36,000 former "Zonies" who ended up in California.
Marshall Vest of the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona said several other states also produced a net positive flow into Arizona.
Some of them, he noted, were from colder climes. That included more than 9,000 from economically depressed Michigan, with fewer than 4,000 Arizonans deciding to go there.
But the picture was decidedly different with Texas. The fewer than 13,000 Texans who made the move to Arizona were eclipsed by more than 20,000 Arizonans opting to move to the Lone Star state.
Arizona also lost residents to Florida, Oregon, New Mexico and Ohio.
Even Nevada, which the Census Bureau said lost residents to Arizona in 2009, posted a net inflow of Arizonans last year.
Economist Tom Rex of the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University cautioned against reading too much into the numbers. He said the Census Bureau itself concedes that, given the sampling it does, there is a possible margin of error.
How large? The federal agency itself says that guess of 222,877 new people from other states could be off by up to 14,000 plus or minus. And there is a 17,000 margin of error on the outflow.
Still, Rex said, there are indications that some of the trends, if not the exact numbers, may be valid.
He said when the Arizona economy was booming, Arizona attracted people from pretty much everywhere, including Texas. But Rex said there is every reason to believe that flow has reversed itself.
"Texas, of all the states, wasn't as hard hit with the economic downturn," he said.
Much of that, Rex explained, is the housing "bubble" that hit Arizona and some other states in the region never really hit the Texas market.
"There was none of the investment activity in Texas," he said, with the sharp run-up in prices followed by a sudden collapse. "So that left them a lot better off."
Vest said other factors were at play.
"The energy industry remained strong," he said. "So Texas' economy held up well during the recession and has expanded nicely during the recovery."
Vest said the latest numbers also show some losses to other states in the West, including Oregon, New Mexico and Colorado.
And then there's Florida: If the numbers are to be believed, more than 8,000 Arizonans decided they prefer hurricanes to haboobs.
"Florida is a mystery," Vest said. Rex agreed, saying that, historically speaking, there hasn't been much migration between the two states.
But Rex said the net inflow from California is likely much easier to explain. He said they're probably people who aren't coming here looking for work.
"They live in California," he said. "Then they retire and say, 'We need to move someplace less expensive because our income has dropped so much.' "
People coming and going in 2011
State They Arizonans Net flow came from moved to
Alaska 5,001 2,467 +2,534
California 49,635 35,650 +13,985
Colorado 10, 189 12,338 (-2,149)
Florida 3,732 8,451 (-4,719)
Illinois 10,035 7,657 +2,378
Indiana 5,885 3,975 +1,910
Iowa 4,526 1,411 +3,115
Ohio 4,682 6,763 (-2,081)
Oregon 4,613 7,911 (-3,298)
Michigan 9,396 3,840 +5,556
Nevada 8,756 10,142 (-1,386)
New Mexico 4,610 7,444 (-2,834)
Texas 12,688 20,073 (-7,385)
Utah 10,577 6,585 +3,992
Virginia 2,233 4,679 (-2,446)
Washington 13,940 12,397 +1,543
Total 222,877 211,816 +11,061*
* Does not include 42,569 from another country; Source: U.S. Census Bureau