Relocation for Work Reaches Historic Lows

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In the 1980s, over one-third of job seekers were willing to move for a new position. Now more than ever this number is dramatically shrinking as new trends are emerging in the labor market. Over the past decade, only 11% of job seekers relocated for work, versus 19% of workers who relocated in the previous decade, according to new data from Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

The Challenger data is based on a survey of roughly 1,000 job seekers who successfully found employment each quarter.

Just over 10% of job seekers relocated for work in the first six months of 2018, which was more or less unchanged from the relocation rate in the first two quarters of 2017. The relocation rate in the third quarter of 2017 was 16.5%, the highest quarterly relocation rate since the second quarter of 2009, when 18.2% of job seekers moved for new positions. However, by the fourth quarter of last year, just 7.5% of job seekers relocated, bringing the annual average to 11.2%, according to the firm.

In 2000, the relocation rate was 22.9%, the last year the rate hit above 17%. Since then, the annual relocation rate for job seekers has averaged 12.7%.

The current relocation rate of 10% is 72% lower than in the mid-to-late 1980s. The average annual relocation rate from 1986 (the first year of Challenger tracking) to 1990 was 35.2%.

Much of this change is attributed to the advancement of technology that allows workers to do their jobs from virtually anywhere. Even workers who are offered relocation packages may forego the hassle if they and their employers agree their jobs can be done remotely.

Andrew Challenger, vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, commented:

This expansion in technology has also allowed companies to grow exponentially, giving opportunities to workers across the country. Over the years, in many cases, companies have found it more beneficial to go to where the workers – and favorable business conditions – already exist rather than have talent come to them.