Why Fewer Americans Are Moving For Work

Did you relocate to take a new job last year? If so, you’re one of a dwindling number of workers willing to move for work.

This story originally ran on PayScale. 

According to U.S. census data, reported by The Wall Street Journal, about 3.5 million U.S. workers relocated for a new job last year. That’s down 10 percent from 2015.

The government started tracking relocations in 1999. Since then, between 2.8 and 4.5 million workers have moved each year to take new jobs. But WSJ notes that the numbers are trending down, while the population grows.


“Experts cite a number of factors that in some periods have kept people in one place, including a depressed value for their home or limited job openings,” write Rachel Feintzeig and Lauren Weber in WSJ. “In the current strong economy, real-estate values have rebounded, but that has made housing costs prohibitively high in some regions where jobs are abundant, such as major East and West Coast cities.”

In addition, many workers choose to stay put to maintain family ties. A demographer tells Feintzeig and Weber that “families are more complex than they used to be.” Divorced parents are more likely to share custody and therefore less likely to take jobs that would require them to move across the country.


Recent analysis from Challenger, Gray & Christmas shows that just 10 percent of job seekers relocated to take a new job during the first half of 2018. The annual relocation rate has averaged 12.7 percent since 2000, when the rate was 22.9 percent.

One reason for that high relocation rate in 2000, compared to subsequent years: the end of dot-com relocation packages.

“The dot-com bubble that left companies flush with cash in the second half of the 1990s, allowing them the potential to offer generous relocation packages to attract talent, burst in 2000,” says Andrew Challenger, Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., in a statement. “That burst led to an increase in job cuts nationwide, and this period seems to delineate the end of the relocation trend. As companies found themselves in cost-cutting mode, it seems many chose to find local candidates and spare the expense of relocation reimbursement in the years following.”

Further, there’s less need to move to a new city to take many jobs.

“…[W]orkers can now do many jobs from anywhere, thanks to technology, leaving more employees working remotely instead of going through the upheaval that comes with moving to a new location,” writes Kate Gibson at MoneyWatch.

A report from FlexJobs showed that 3.9 million employees worked from home at least half the time in 2015, an increase of 115 percent from 2005.

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