Postal service data shows that migration into and out of the city is back to pre-pandemic levels, but a lot of people are still moving around, with more moves happening overall than were happening in 2019.


As recently as January we were still seeing pieces like one in the New York Times blaring the headline "They Can't Leave the Bay Area Fast Enough," but by May it became clear that the trend was swinging back with tech workers and others getting sick of nomadic lives and wishing they could be back in Dolores Park/shopping at the Ferry Building/shivering on Ocean Beach again. We know this primarily via United States Postal Service (USPS) data showing people's change-of-address requests. For some reason, due to the limitations of this data, there is always a net out-migration of residents, but as the Chronicle reports today, that net number is back to about where it was before the coronavirus upended our lives.

The peak net monthly loss of humans, per the USPS, came in August 2020 when there were 7,000 more changes of address for people departing SF than there were people moving in. Net out-migration in June 2021 was 1,600, just above the 1,400 seen in May, which is right around the 1,500 net departures seen in March 2020. And this flow of traffic back to the city is reflected in apartment rents, which ticked up another 4% last month, though they still remain about 20% below pre-pandemic levels, per Socketsite. (ApartmentList says that rents are currently 14% below March 2020 levels.)

Recent college grad Anusha Datar, who just moved here from Boston, tells the Chronicle that "competition is definitely back up" when it comes to apartment hunting, and she's already looked at 15 places in her chosen neighborhoods in a quest to get a lease.

BART is still running at a fraction of its pre-pandemic ridership, but that may change when they finally return to a more normal schedule and level of train frequency in August.

The Chronicle has been calling bullshit on the exodus narrative for months now, using USPS data to debunk the popular narrative. Between March and November last year, they found that a small percentage of households in five Bay Area counties, 3.7%, filed change-of-address requests. And the vast majority of those, 72%, made moves within the Bay Area, so they didn't go very far.

Still, a lot of people are still moving around. The Postal Service finds that the "churn rate," or overall number of people moving in and out of San Francisco. Just under 20,000 households moved into or out of the city in June, compared with about 17,500 in June 2019. In April of this year, the number was 18,500, about 4,000 more moves than were happening in the same month of 2019.

Related: New York Times Editors Again Take Secret Pleasure In 'Bay Area Exodus' Headline

Photo: Ameer Basheer