Street Economics: Lopsided Moving Rates, Discarded Furnishings Portend San Francisco Jobs Exodus

Categories: Recession Watch
Adventures in moving indeed
Business boosters may talk about "green shoots" suggesting an economic recovery, but SF Weekly has been monitoring real-world indicators implying things are still bleak in San Francisco. Two informal economic indicators suggest the city is suffering a jobs exodus. First, city sidewalks in local residential neighborhoods last weekend were littered with an unusual excess of free house furnishings, dishes, clothes, and other detritus typical of residents pulling up roots.

Perhaps more telling, and sobering, is the steep difference in rates the U-Haul moving van rental company now charges people moving from San Francisco's dicey job market to more employment-friendly cities such as Austin, Texas, which ranked first in Forbes 2009 list of best cities for job hunters.

When a lot of people move out of a city, truck companies have to hire drivers to bring the trucks back, a cost they pass on in rental fees -- so it's possible to get a rough idea of which cites are losing people, and which ones are absorbing new residents, by looking at these rental rates:

Renting a 10-foot truck in Austin, and dropping it off in San Francisco costs $685. Picking up the same truck here and moving to Austin, however, costs $1,531.

That disparity evokes the early 2000s dot-com crash, when it likewise cost more than twice as much to rent a U-Haul truck leaving San Francisco for a jobs Mecca such as Austin, than it did to drive a truck to here.

Whether this means unemployment checks have finally run out for the city's legions of ex-waiters, bankers, journalists and other idle stiffs, or that Macy's has actually given pink slips to the 1,503 San Francisco employees it said it would lay off-- on International Workers Day no less -- we can't tell you.

For green-shoots optimists, it's worth considering that San Francisco's college and university campuses just emptied following graduation ceremonies.

Just the same, savvy SF Weekly readers might holding off a few months on their investment in a San Francisco rental property, work-clothes boutique, or, the way things seem to be going, groceries.
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