PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Since deaths in Oregon now outnumber births, the state is relying on migrants to grow its population. Although migration slowed during difficult economic times over the past two years, experts expect things will turn around in 2022. 

Oregon State Economist Josh Lehner released an article Wednesday predicting that when Portland State University’s Population Research Center releases its 2022 population estimates in November, it will show the state’s population rebounding. 

The U.S. Census Bureau will release its estimates in December. 

“The two primary reasons why our office forecasts a rebound in population growth is that this is the typical pattern seen over the business cycle and the fact that the number of surrendered driver licenses at Oregon DMVs remains strong,” he wrote. 

Lehner said surrendered driver’s licenses are a good indication of who’s moving to the state. When new residents move to Oregon, they must turn in or surrender their license from their previous state in order to get a new one. 

So far, the data point toward the expected rebound in migration to Oregon. 

The DMV’s data on surrendered licenses were disrupted during the pandemic, but Lehner said the trend for the past 6-9 months is still higher than the pre-pandemic trend. 

However, he notes that the Oregon DMV began using new software during the pandemic, which might mean the new data is not perfectly compatible with the old data. 

“Time will tell,” he said. 

While the surrendered licenses give a good idea of what migration to the state is like, they don’t say anything about people migrating out. 

Lehner said it’s hard to know what the net migration will be like if out-migration also picked up through the year. 

One thing he looked at to gauge potential out-of-state migration is research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. The research shows that there’s been an increase in people moving away from high-cost, large metro areas across the country. 

The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis said this is relevant because the office’s long-standing concern is that housing affordability in the state is a risk to the outlook. 

“If fewer households can afford to live here, and in a world with increased working from home opportunities, the U.S. may continue to see faster growth in lower-cost metros and slower growth in high-cost metros,” Lehner wrote. 

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland research included both Portland and Seattle, but no other areas in the northwest. 

According to the data, there are larger increases in people moving away from Portland to destinations more than 150 miles away. 

In Portland, the largest outflow increases are in people moving to small- and medium-sized metropolitan areas, and rural areas. In Seattle, people are primarily moving away to other metropolitan areas. 

In 2021, PSU’s and the U.S. Census Bureau’s estimates for Portland’s population differed. PSU estimates showed slow, but positive growth. The census showed outright declines. The 2021 census estimates showed population declines in nearly all the primary counties in major metro areas, not just Portland. 

Lehner said it will be interesting to compare and contrast the upcoming 2022 estimates.