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Move? Who can afford to?

South Carolina’s population growth will slow as the ability of Americans to move is hampered by weak housing prices.

In the past decade, South Carolina’s coast has attracted tens of thousands of retirees, while thousands more workers moved to the state for constructionand other jobs. But that migration has slowed.

The state gained residents from mid-2007 to mid-2008 but the growth rate slowed from previous years as the recession took hold, said state demographerMichael Macfarlane. The weak economy has stopped people from the leaving the state, too.

Moving requires money and the ability to sell a home, said Don Schunk, Coastal Carolina University’s research economist. Slower population growth will further stagnate the state’s already slowed economy, Schunk said. That’s because fewer homes will be built and sold, and there will be fewer people spending money at restaurants and stores.

“An economy can still grow if there’s population growth because you still get a boost in overall sales,” Schunk said. “But we’re not getting the growth in the number of households so spending in South Carolina is likely to be sluggish.”

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NEW ERA OF SLOW GROWTH

Population growth in South Carolina slowed from mid- 2007 to mid-2008, the U.S. Census Bureau says, and has slowed even more since then, most expect. Why does that matter? A look at some of the numbers:

-- Fewer new residents: Between July 1, 2007, and July 1, 2008, 54,846 people moved to South Carolina. That was 4,483 less than moved into the state during the previous 12 months. The recession really kicked in during 2008’s second half, so demographers and economists expect growth slowed even further since then.

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