After riding out the tough economy in their parents' basements, more young American adults are starting to break out on their own, pushing up the nation's mobility rate and giving an important boost to the housing market and the broader recovery.
Thanks to improving job prospects and super-low mortgage rates, adults in their 20s and early 30s are moving into their own apartments and buying homes in increasingly greater numbers, according to real estate experts and government statistics.
Census Bureau data show that the nation added more than 2 million households in the 12 months that ended March 31, about triple the annual average for the previous four years. Most of the gain came from middle-aged and older baby boomers, but young adults are hitting the road as well.
The recession had knocked the overall U.S. interstate migration to a post-War World II low, but last year the number of people ages 25 to 29 who moved across state lines reached its highest level in 13 years, said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution.
Mr. Frey called the shift significant: "They're leading indicators of migration coming for the broader population."
A week ago, Kevin Ratz, 27, hitched a U-haul to his Ford pickup, loaded the trailer with furniture, stereo and skis, and drove to Chicago.
Mr. Ratz left behind his parents' suburban Detroit home, where he had stayed in his childhood room for the past two years. The room was pretty much unchanged with its sports-car posters on the wall and youth-hockey trophies lining the bookshelf.
One big reason he moved back in with his parents was the weak job market for young pilots. Although he had a degree in aviation from Western Michigan University and some experience as a flight instructor, he found few well-paying openings in the field.
So for the past two years, Mr. Ratz waited it out by working as a tour guide and saving what money he could.
Recently he landed a job at a flight school in Chicago and took an apartment in the hip neighborhood of Wicker Park just north of downtown.
"It feels good to get out and be on my own again," he said.
In the past year, the jobless rate of those ages 25 to 34 has dropped a little more sharply than it has for the overall population. It fell to 8.3 percent in October from 9 percent at the start of the year for those workers, compared with a decline to 7.9 percent from 8.3 percent for all workers.