Unemployed go where the jobs are

CHICAGO -- Americans have been casting a wider geographic net when looking for work in today's tough job market, and even as a recovery materializes it's possible that more of them will consider moving for a paycheck.


CHICAGO -- Americans have been casting a wider geographic net when looking for work in today's tough job market, and even as a recovery materializes it's possible that more of them will consider moving for a paycheck.

"Unemployment seems to be leveling off, but even if the economy has moved out of recession -- which it may have -- we're likely to go into a jobless recovery for the rest of 2009 and much of 2010, which means unemployment is going to stay in the 9 to 10 percent range," said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray and Christmas, an outplacement consultancy.

"Job seekers are facing more competition and more people are chasing fewer jobs," he adds, which is leading people to make "rational decisions, saying if I can't find a job here ... I'm going to expand that scope."

According to the outplacement firm, 18.2 percent of job seekers who found employment in the second quarter relocated for the position, the highest job-seeker relocation rate since the second quarter of 2006. In the first quarter of this year, 14.3 percent relocated for a job and in the second quarter of last year, 11.4 percent relocated for work.

"When unemployment is high, people need to go where the jobs are ... to make ends meet, to get on with their lives," Challenger said.


But don't move with the herd: Before deciding to relocate, career counselors advise workers to make sure they fully understand the local economy they're going to -- and what they'd do if the new job doesn't work out as planned. Also, make sure you understand what kind of help, if any, your new employer is prepared to give you for moving costs.

Companies typically have standard relocation packages. Often, companies will provide lump-sum assistance to employees or help in selling a home.

"Make sure you completely understand the policy," said Rich McClure, president of UniGroup, parent company of United Van Lines and Mayflower Transit. "It's important for (employees) to understand exactly what they're getting."

Companies know jobs are scarce and aren't likely to deal on standard relocation packages, said Russ Haynie, director of global consulting for Prudential Relocation. Anecdotally, companies in industries with high unemployment or those recruiting from regions where unemployment is high haven't been enhancing relocation benefits lately, he adds.

"Our very recent experience has been that companies are less likely to enhance offerings related to selling real estate, overcoming deficit equity or loss on sale situations, or offsetting the cost of temporary living/duplicate housing expenses as a means of capitalizing on this trend," he said in an e-mailed statement.

Stay or go?

Before accepting a position in another location, make sure you do some homework on your new home -- and know what you want out of the new job.

"People react and grab anything. ... I don't think it's bad to relocate for a good opportunity, but understand what you're trying to do first," said Deb Bailey, a transition coach in New Jersey. Understand how this move will advance your career, and also think about what you would do in the worst-case scenario: You accept a job in another place, move, and for whatever reason, the job doesn't work out, she said.


Bailey's advice: Ask yourself, are there other opportunities in the area? Or would it be worth it to stay in your current town, perhaps selling your home for a loss or living with a roommate and accepting a lower-paying job until the local job market improves?

"You really have to be in a career management mode. If you're unemployed and the opportunity is in Oshkosh, if it's a good opportunity go to Oshkosh," said Dale Winston, CEO of Battalia Winston, an executive search firm in New York. "Otherwise, you want to base yourself in a center of opportunity."

And if it's only a home holding you back from a job that could move your career forward, it might be time to cut your losses. "If you made an error in judgment in terms of overleveraging yourself, get out of it and move on. It's like credit card debt ... pay it down and don't do it again," Winston said.

Keeping costs down

When conducting a national job search, your willingness to move should be made clear upfront, said Tim Johnson, managing editor for Today, that also may mean indicating that you'd make the move with or without a relocation package.

To keep costs down, get at least three quotes before hiring a moving company, and have each actually see the items you need moved, Johnson said. "It's the only way to get a precise quote."

Also, try to cut the amount of items you're moving by 20 percent, Mr. Johnson said. People "tend to move things that aren't worth that much," he said. You may be attached to an old couch, but in reality it might not be worth the cost of moving it, for example.

For the average cross-country move with full moving services, including packing, loading, driving and unloading, the cost is roughly $6,000 to $8,000, Johnson said.


"If you choose to do packing on your own, it'd cut the cost to roughly $3,500 to $5,500," he said. In that example, the movers would load and unload the truck, as well as drive it to the destination.

A self-service move would be roughly a third of the cost of full moving services, or about $2,000 to $3,000, Johnson said. That would require the individual to pack, load and unload items, leaving only the driving to the movers.

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