Job Relocations Plunge Due to Housing Slump: Study

Falling home prices has made it harder for unemployed executives to relocate for a new a job, possibly slowing a recovery, according to a report released Thursday.

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Just 6.9 percent of job seekers who found employment in the third quarter relocated for that position, down from 13.4 percent in the same quarter a year ago, according to global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas that released the report.

It’s the lowest relocation rate recorded since the firm began tracking it in 1986.

“Continued weakness in the housing market is undoubtedly the biggest factor suppressing relocation,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas in the report. “Job seekers who own a home—even if they are open to relocating for a new job—are basically stuck where they are if they are unable or unwilling to sell their homes without incurring a significant loss.”

Unwillingness to move could delay an overall recovery, according to the report. If the job market and economy improves faster than the housing market, companies that are hiring and looking to bring workers in from other regions could find that prospective workers won't move.

“Unfortunately, the immobility of the workforce may mean that some employers will have to delay expansion plans, thus slowing the recovery,” said Challenger.

Relocating has been on a decline for over a decade. It hit a record high in 1993 when, at one point, 49.2 percent of workers moved for a job.

“Several factors probably contributed to the decline in relocation. The country experienced a period of phenomenal growth, with many cities and states diversifying their economies. As a result, it was no longer necessary to relocate to Silicon Valley for a technology job, for example,” Challenger said.

Percentage of Job Seekers Relocating 2005-2010

First Quarter
Second Quarter
Third Quarter
Fourth Quarter
2005 16.0% 16.4% 16.2% 15.2%
2006 16.4% 18.2% 16.1% 15.4%
2007 16.6% 15.4% 15.6% 11.0%
2008 8.9% 11.4% 13.4% 12.6%
2009 14.4% 18.2% 13.4% 7.3%
2010 7.4% 7.7% 6.9%
Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas