Fewer Job Seekers are Willing to Pull Up Stakes for New Employment Opportunities

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A lot of job seekers would rather stay put than accept a new position requiring they leave the place they call home.

A new survey of 3,000 job seekers, including many managers and executives, found that the percentage willing to relocate for a new opportunity dropped to a near-record low during the second half of 2011.

The latest data shows that picking up stakes remains a last resort for most job seekers—"many of whom are unwilling to take a loss on the sale of a home for a position that may or may not last," John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said in a press statement.

Over the last two quarters of 2011, an average of just 7.5 percent of job seekers finding employment relocated for their new positions. This is down nearly two points from an average relocation rate of 9.4 percent in the first two quarters of the year, Challenger, Gray reported.

It was also just slightly lower than the same period in 2010, when 7.7 percent of job seekers relocated for new positions.

Challenger explains that the percentage of job seekers relocating plunged in the wake of the housing collapse.

An average 15.7 percent of job seekers relocated for new positions each quarter in the pre-recession period from 2005 through 2007. Even during the onset and throughout most of the recession, from 2008 through the third quarter of 2009, the relocation rate averaged 13.2 percent.

And yet, since the fourth quarter of 2009, the quarterly relocation rate has averaged just 7.9 percent.

"It appeared that relocation was beginning to bounce back after plunging in the wake of the housing market collapse and the deep recession that followed," said Challenger. That apparently is no longer the case, he observed.

"The largest factor behind the low relocation figures is, of course, the still-struggling housing market, which has shown no signs of improvement outside of a handful of markets," he said. "Home prices are still falling and millions of homes are approaching foreclosure, which will saturate the market with even more low-priced inventory. Unfortunately, once home values begin to rebound, it could take years before homeowners are back above water."

According to the latest S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index, which measures home prices in 20 major U.S. cities, October prices declined by 1.1 percent from September and were down 3.4 percent from October 2010. It was the 13th consecutive year-over-year decline recorded by the index, said Challenger, Gray, concluding that until more families are able to get help getting out from under their mortgages, they’ll remain incapable of moving for new job opportunities.

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