What Lures Job-Seekers to Boston

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Boston draws job seekers from outside the region, even in times of economic uncertainty.

Many of the people who want to move to the region already have ties to it and seek to return to where they went to college or grew up. On top of that, the perception is New England financial firms are weathering the current turmoil better than their counterparts on Wall Street.

Further adding to the area's appeal is the region's comparatively low cost of living, especially when compared with places such as California, says Tracey Pirrie, managing director for recruiter Ashton Lane Group, which is based in Short Hills, N.J., but has clients in the Boston area.

"If anything, there are people who are looking at Boston as an alternative who might not have looked at it previously," she notes. "People seem to be very loyal to the city. They come back when they get the chance."

Major employers in the area - including JPMorgan Chase, State Street Corp. and Wellington Management Co. - are continuing to hire, seeking out workers with experience in areas such as quantitative analysis and portfolio management.

"We're seeing a lot of people who are taking a look at the economy and are seeing that Boston is a little better off when it comes to unemployment," says Matthew Naughton, a Boston-based executive recruiter with Ajilon Finance. "Companies are definitely hiring in this market. ... Companies are looking for people with a large skill set. The more things you can do, the better off you will be."

Not an Easy Move

Wannabe Bostonians should be forewarned that making the move may be more difficult than they think. To start, local companies will probably want to check out the numerous local candidates for each open position. Because the job market is comparatively small compared with, say, New York's, there are fewer opportunities, notes Pirrie.

"I don't see any difference in geography between Boston and New York with respect to hiring," she says. "It's just a very challenging market no matter where you are."

Companies are offering relocation packages for only the highest level jobs. Lower-level workers are expected to bear the cost of a move, and many do, according to Naughton.

Of course, not everyone likes Boston. Long ago, detractors nicknamed the Bay State "Taxachusetts" for its high taxes, and the reputation's stuck. People moving from San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York or Washington, D.C., will see their cost of living go down "somewhat," says Boston Online, an online guide to people relocating to the area. However, "if you're moving here from anywhere else ... you'll be shocked at how much more expensive Boston is," the Web site says. "This is almost entirely a factor of our housing prices - always among the highest in the country. So before you move, make sure you're either getting a big enough raise to make up the difference or be willing to settle for smaller living quarters."

One person who may be leaving the city is John Hancock head John DesPrez III. According to the Boston Globe, DesPrez is one of two executives being considered as the next chief executive of John Hancock's parent company Manulife Financial Corp. Dominic D'Alessandro, the company's current CEO, plans to retire.

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