Thousands fled DC during the pandemic, but many may come back

Job losses, remote work opportunities and closed schools led to a noticeable increase in the number of D.C. residents leaving the District during the pandemic, though many of those moves appear to be temporary.

The D.C. Office of the Chief Financial Officer analyzed U.S. Postal Service change of address submissions in D.C. and said the District lost almost 18,000 more people during the pandemic than the prior year.

The relocations accelerated almost immediately after the pandemic lockdowns began in March 2020, a good indication that the pandemic was the leading cause.

In 2019, USPS recorded 11,480 net moves out of the city. In 2020, that increased to 29,362, or an increase of 17,882 net moves out of the District. That is 2.6 times more than in 2019. Net moves out is the number of moves out that exceeded the number of moves in.

The DCOCFO does note there was also some decrease in the number of moves into the District in 2020, but 90% of the increase in net moves out of the city resulted from residents moving out.

Many of those who moved out may be coming back, or already have.

USPS change of address forms include a section to denote whether the move is permanent or temporary. Out of the increase of 17,882 net moves out, DCOCFO estimates 9,335 were permanent and 8,547 were temporary.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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