CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For the third year in a row, United Van Lines has ranked West Virginia as one of the top states where people are moving out.
The St. Louis-based moving company on Thursday released its 37th annual Migration Study, which tracks the states its customers move into and out of during the course of the year.
The study is based on household moves handled by United within the 48 contiguous states and Washington.
"As the nation's largest household goods mover, United's shipment data illustrates national state-to-state migration trends," Vice President Carl Walter said.
"We've been tracking the number of inbound and outbound domestic moves for nearly 40 years, and through our study are able to identify the states that are attracting or losing residents."
The company classifies states as "high inbound" if 55 percent or more of the moves flow into the state, "high outbound" if 55 percent or more moves are leaving, or "balanced" if the difference of inbound and outbound is negligible.
Sixty percent of the company's interstate moves involving West Virginians were outbound last year, ranking the state fourth highest in the "high outbound" category.
New Jersey, at 64 percent, had the highest percentage of outbound moves last year -- a designation it's had for three out of the last four years. It was followed by Illinois and New York, both of which had outbound trips making up 61 percent of their moves.
Connecticut, Utah, Kentucky, Massachusetts and New Mexico followed West Virginia on the high outbound list. Connecticut had 59 percent of its moves heading out, Utah had 58 percent, Kentucky and Massachusetts had 56 percent and New Mexico had 55 percent.
West Virginia's fourth-place "high outbound" ranking this year was a drop from its third place ranking in last year's survey. While the state's place in the rankings dropped, the state's percentage of outbound moves actually increased over the period.
In 2012, 58 percent of the company's West Virginia moves were outbound, two percentage points less than the 60 percent of outbound moves in the current report.