The percentage of unemployed managers and executives relocating for new jobs in the first half of 2013 climbed to its highest level since the beginning of the recession, according to new data released Wednesday by global outplacement and coaching consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. The rising relocation rate is further evidence of an improving housing market and regional employment gains.
On average, 14 percent of managers and executives moved for new jobs through the first two quarters of 2013. That was more than double the 6.7 percent who relocated for employment during the same period of 2012. The first-half average is the highest since the first two quarters of 2009, when an average of 16.3 percent of managers and executives pulled up stakes and moved for employment.
The relocation rate, which is based on a quarterly survey of managers and executives finding employment, tends to fluctuate significantly from quarter-to-quarter. However, the four-quarter moving average, which smoothes out the volatility, also shows a rise in the percentage of job seekers moving for new positions. In the second quarter of 2013, the moving average increased to 13.4 percent from 11.1 percent in the first quarter. The latest reading was up 37 percent from a year ago, when the moving average stood at 9.8 percent.
“Relocation is rarely the most desirable option for job seekers. There is a lot of cost and risk involved. The recent collapse in the housing market made relocation even more unattractive, as many job seekers were stuck in homes with market values that had sunk well below what was owed. Now, home buying and home values are finally starting to gain some upward momentum, which is making it easier to move,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.
A new report from RealtyTrac, a leading source for comprehensive housing data, indicates that median home prices are now rising in every one of the 100 markets it ranks. Upstate New York, southwest Florida and the Bay Area of Northern California are experiencing the biggest gains, with median home prices up between 44 percent and 96 percent since hitting bottom.
However, some areas are still struggling. In the Baltimore area, for example, median home prices have increased just 9.0 percent and one in four houses remain underwater. In Rockford, Illinois, 43 percent of homeowners owe more than the market value of their house.
“Even with improving housing market conditions in parts of the country, relocation will remain an option of last resort for the majority of job seekers. However, those who are at least open to the possibility can greatly expand the number of potential job opportunities by casting a much wider net. This, in turn, can result in a shorter employment transition. There are many parts of the country where unemployment has fallen below five percent. So, if you have skills that are in demand in these areas, it is probably worth considering relocation,” said Challenger.
The latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that there were 29 metropolitan areas with unemployment rates of 5.0 percent or below in June. The lowest unemployment in the country in June was Bismarck, North Dakota, where a booming energy industry is also fueling job growth in construction, retail, transportation, etc., and driving the unemployment rate down to 2.8 percent. The middle of the country is also faring well, with low unemployment is being enjoyed in areas such as Omaha, Iowa City, Des Moines and Ames.
There were another 35 metropolitan areas with unemployment rates below 6.0 percent, including Minneapolis-St. Paul at 5.1 percent; Madison, Wisconsin, at 5.2 percent; Charlottesville, Virginia, 5.5 percent; and Austin, Texas, 5.8 percent.
“In areas with unemployment below six percent, it is likely that many employers are having a difficult time filling open positions with locally available talent. Moreover, many of the areas experiencing low unemployment also enjoy a lower cost of living. Job seekers should not assume that the industry driving the growth in these areas is the only one hiring. One strong industry can lift the other sectors in that area, including health care, education, business services, and so on,” said Challenger.
“In other words, don’t discount a place like Midland, Texas, because you have no experience in the oil industry. There could be myriad opportunities in the other industries that are benefitting from the oil boom.