More Job Seekers Are Relocating For Work

As workers come to grips with prolonged recession, they agree to lose money on their homes.

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Job seekers are showing a willingness to move again. The percentage of job seekers who relocate for a new job has more than doubled to 18.2 percent from a recessionary (and record) low of 8.9 percent early last year, according to a new report from Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That percentage--of job seekers who find employment--has been steadily increasing. It was up from 14.3 percent in the first quarter and up from 11.4 percent in the year ago period.

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The trend could mean that workers--now nearly 20 months into the recession--have seen that the job and housing markets are not rebounding quickly, and are more willing to lose money on the sale of their homes if it means getting a paycheck. “While job seekers are no less likely to lose money on the sale of their home and the job market is only marginally more stable than it was six months ago, the overwhelming desire to get back to work appears to be outweighing the perceived risks,” chief executive John Challenger says.

Moving rates are tracked by the Census Bureau, which reported that the 2008 national mover rate was the lowest in its 60 year history of being recorded. Last year, people in the South and the West were more likely to move than those in the Midwest and the Northeast, according to Census data. Renters were also five times more likely to move than homeowners.

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This Challenger report comes on the heels of the Labor Department's release of data on pay levels in metropolitan areas, which suggests some jobs may be worth moving for. The data from the National Compensation Survey finds some cities offer pay well above national averages. In general, pay is highest in the San Jose, Calif. area, where workers make 19 percent more than the national average. Not far south of San Jose, in Salinas, Calif., sales jobs pay 29 percent above the national average for that occupational group. Transportation industry workers made 14 percent more than average in Springfield, Mass., and 13 percent more than average in the Fort Collins-Loveland, Colo., metro area. Workers in construction jobs in the New York metro area make 32 percent more than the national average for that occupational group.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas has tracked relocation rates since 1986, when a whopping 42 percent of job seekers relocated for work. That average dropped to 22 percent through the second half of the 1990s, and Challenger notes that relocation rates probably declined as local economies diversified--lessening the need for job seekers to move to find jobs matching their skill sets--and the Internet made it possible for more workers to work "from anywhere."

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Another possible factor in the recent increase in the rate: the large number of homeowners who lost their homes to foreclosure in the last year and a half also lost a major impediment to relocation.

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