Job Seekers Shun Relocation As Local Job Markets Improve

The percentage of job seekers relocating for new positions declined in the first half of 2015, suggesting that as the recovery spreads, individuals are able to find better employment opportunities in their local market.

Over the first two quarters of the year, 10 percent of job seekers moved for new employment, according to the latest job search data from global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. That was down from an average of 15 percent in the last half of 2014. In the first half of 2014, 11.4 percent of job seekers relocated for new positions.

The relocation rate in the last six months of 2014 was the highest since the first half of 2009, when an average of 16.3 percent of job seekers moved in the immediate wake of the recession.

The Challenger relocation rate is based on a quarterly survey of approximately 1,000 job seekers who concluded their search by finding employment, starting a business or retiring.

“The tipping point for relocation is very sensitive. Most people do not want to pick up stakes and move solely for employment. We tend to see relocation surge at the onset of recessions and in the early stages of recovery, as different geographical areas are impacted at different times. However, as recovery spreads and jobs become more available throughout the country, relocation begins to ebb,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Nationally, the unemployment rate stood at 5.3 percent in June. However, there were 183 metropolitan areas below that level as of May, according to the latest available data on state and local employment from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Furthermore, there were 148 metropolitan areas with an unemployment rate below 5.0 percent, at which point the balance of power in the job market shifts away from employers and toward job seekers,” noted Challenger.

“As local job markets improve around the country, there is less incentive to move. Employment alone is not a strong enough factor. There would have to be some other motivation, whether that’s family, health, lifestyle, or cost-of-living,” he added.