ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Margeaux Anderson loves New Mexico. She loves the state’s natural beauty, its rich cultural heritage and the fact that both her and her husband’s families are close by. All of which is to say: she’s leaving.
“The decision has already been made,” said Anderson. “It’s just a matter of finding the right stepping-off point.”
As a project manager at an Albuquerque-based paper goods manufacturer, Anderson said she finds her job fulfilling, but she also feels that, at the age of 26, she has already reached the pinnacle of what she can achieve within her industry here.
She’s far from alone. New data from the real estate site Apartment List confirm that the Albuquerque metropolitan area is steadily losing its millennials, the young adults between 18 and 35 who are the future of the U.S. economy. And the numbers appear to indicate a familiar culprit: the state’s lackluster job environment.
From 2005 to 2015, the area’s millennial population dropped by 1.6 percent, according to the data. Census figures shows that the Albuquerque area’s total population grew by 24.3 percent over the same time period.
According to Apartment List, the metro area with the sharpest decrease was Naples, Fla., with a drop of 42.5 percent, whereas Jacksonville, N.C., saw the highest increase in its millennial population with a hike of 77.4 percent. The numbers were adjusted to take into account the growth of the young adult population nationwide.
Albuquerque’s profile fit the trend Apartment List saw nationally. Where median income dropped, so too did the millennial population. In the Albuquerque metro area, median income decreased by 6.4 percent over the same 10 years.
“Apartment List’s renter surveys consistently show that local career opportunities are one of the most important factors to millennials,” said Andrew Woo, the company’s director of data science and growth, in a report on millennial population trends nationally. “Despite popular stereotypes about millennials wanting urban lifestyles and amenities, good jobs and strong wage growth remain a key deciding factor for millennials across the country.”
Apartment List’s data also showed millennials flocking to metropolitan areas closer to the interior of the country with strong economies, such as Austin, Texas, and Charlotte, N.C., challenging assumptions about millennials leaving for big cities on the coasts.
As for Anderson, she said she’s saddened by the prospect of leaving her hometown and family behind, but at this point there’s little that could convince her to stay.
“I love my job and I love what I do,” she said. “But what I need most is the opportunity to grow. That’s not something I can find in Albuquerque.”