Move to a New City for Work? No Thanks

Fewer workers have been moving for new jobs during the pandemic. Will anyone want to when it’s over?

The percentage of job seekers who relocated for work fell to 5% in 2020 and 4.2% in the first three months of 2021, according to quarterly surveys of about 3,000 people from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas. That’s down from 5.7% in 2019 and 9.6% in 2018.

Some of that dip might include would-be moves temporarily halted by virus concerns and interim remote-work setups. The numbers could tick upward as some companies start calling workers, including recent hires who joined virtually, to the office, says Andrew Challenger, a senior vice president at Challenger. But he and other demography and career experts say the pandemic likely accelerated a yearslong trend of falling worker relocations—at least when the boss is the one giving the directive.

“This has been sort of an awakening moment for people,” says Chris Porter, chief demographer at John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Irvine, Calif. “After what we went through last year, I think there might be a resetting of priorities.”

Many parents are loath to pluck their kids from schools to which they’re just now returning after a tumultuous stretch of virtual learning. Some companies are opening and expanding satellite locations that could preclude the need for a physical move. And workers who have grown used to the flexibility of logging on from the dining room table might scoff at the idea of putting their families through a huge transition just so they can commute to new headquarters each day.

“Part of it is, ‘I’m offered that level of freedom in my current position, so tell me why I should give that up,’ ” says John Touey, a Philadelphia-area executive recruiter with Salveson Stetson Group who’s noticed job candidates are much more resistant to relocating for new opportunities these days. “I think we want to make these decisions because they’re personally motivated and they’re right for us and our families, versus they’re right for our employers.”

Many Americans have indeed moved during the pandemicto places their jobs didn’t ask them to go. Untethered from the office, they set out in search of more space and cheaper living costs. Some landed closer to relatives, or just somewhere they always wanted to be. Now that they’re there, it might be hard to get them to leave.

“I feel like I can lay down roots here,” Dan Slamowitz, a product manager for a consulting firm, says of his choice to move to Centennial, Colo., last fall. He kept his Chicago-based role, a strategic move that enabled him to score the promotion he’d been working toward for years, even as a far-flung employee. He’s loving the area’s snowboarding, hiking and vegan offerings and hopes to buy a house.

“I wouldn’t move for a company anymore,” the 29-year-old says. “I just feel that I can prioritize where I want to be.”

Read the full article on The Wall Street Journal.