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Relocations Increase in U.S., Some Regions Worldwide

By Theresa Minton-Eversole  3/7/2014
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The percentage of U.S. job seekers relocating for new positions has climbed to its highest level since 2009, according to a report released Feb. 27, 2014, by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

The relocation rate, based on a quarterly survey of managers and executives finding employment, fluctuates significantly from quarter to quarter. However, the four-quarter moving average also shows a rise in the percentage of people moving for new positions. In the fourth quarter of 2013, the moving average increased to 13.3 percent from 11.1 percent in the first quarter. 

The 2013 average relocation rate was 13.3 percent, compared with 2012’s average of 9.8 percent.  In 2011 the quarterly relocation rate averaged just 7.6 percent.

The collapse of the housing market, which was a primary factor behind the recession, made relocation unattractive, “as many job seekers were stuck in homes with market values well below what was owed on the mortgage,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, in a press statement. “In 2013 we saw a rebound in home buying and home prices. Fewer mortgages are ‘underwater,’ which is making it easier to move.”

A recent report from the National Association of Realtors indicates that 1 in 6 metropolitan areas has seen its housing market return to pre-recession conditions.

“There are definitely regions of the country that are recovering faster than others,” Challenger said, noting certain cities where unemployment was below 5.0 percent as of December 2013: Springfield, Mo.; Austin, Texas; Oklahoma City; Washington, D.C.; Boulder, Colo.; and Gainesville, Fla.

Global Migration Cools

More U.S. job seekers are on the move, but fewer people are interested in permanently relocating to other countries, according to Gallup's Potential Net Migration Index (PNMI). The index is measured on a scale of -100 (meaning the total adult population of the country would leave) to infinity (meaning the potential inflow of the adult population to the country is unlimited).

Based on approximately 520,000 interviews, the latest results of the PNMI include 154 countries or areas surveyed between 2010 and 2012. For most countries, aggregated sample sizes (across multiple years of surveys) range between 3,000 and 6,000 interviews. The 154 countries surveyed are home to more than 98 percent of the world's population, according to Gallup.

Overall, the survey results show that people would still move to North and South America, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, but there are clearly areas of each of these that are more attractive than others.

The U.S. and Canada have the highest PNMI scores (+45 percent and +120 percent, respectively) for the Americas, although these scores have declined since the last survey, taken in the 2007-2009 time frame. And while many Latin and Central American countries continue to have negative PNMI scores, scores in some have risen since the last survey (e.g., El Salvador and Nicaragua), meaning these countries could potentially have less population loss from net migration in the future. Mexico’s PNMI has remained flat.

Europe's overall PNMI score is in the plus category (+10 percent), with Western Europe's score at +38 percent; however, many Southern European countries’ scores have fallen, including those for Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece—nations that have been severely affected by economic declines.

Many countries surveyed in the Middle East and North Africa region are unchanged from previous years, although Sub-Saharan Africa (-24 percent) has the highest negative PNMI of all global regions.

Scores across developing Asian countries remain negative, with both China (-6 percent) and India (-4 percent) remaining negative and flat since the last survey. But scores for Singapore, Australia and New Zealand are still positive and high, albeit lower than they were in the previous survey.

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