TMCNet:  Fewer job seekers relocate [Telegraph-Herald (Dubuque, IA)]

[June 26, 2011]

Fewer job seekers relocate [Telegraph-Herald (Dubuque, IA)]

(Telegraph-Herald (Dubuque, IA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) As the business world becomes more of a global enterprise, the map of opportunities is expanding for workers across a variety of industries.

Put another way, more industries now require workers to be transitory.

In some cases, finding the best job no longer means searching in the next town, or even nearby states. It can mean looking for jobs in an entirely different region.

Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows high rates of population growth in some regions, namely the South and the West. Both areas have experienced increases in immigrant populations.

"The future of American politics and labor force growth are places that are growing because of the movement of minorities and immigration," William Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, told Bloomberg News late last year. "I kind of see it as a regional analogy to when people moved to the suburbs in the 1950s." Moving South and West The U.S. population center of the country moved from Phelps County, Mo. to Texas County, Mo. between the 2000 and 2010 censuses.

The 23.4-mile shift was the shortest distance the center has moved since 1970, and also marked a decidedly southern shift.

Both can be attributed to a "strong pull on the center by population growth in the Southeast - Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas - as well as growth in Texas," the Census Bureau reported.

As regions, the West grew by 13.8 percent and the South by 14.3 percent according to the 2010 Census.

The population of Texas grew by 20.6 percent, Georgia by 18.3 percent and Arizona by 24.6 percent.

Nevada's population swelled a staggering 35.1 percent. (The state has also experienced high rates of unemployment, at 12.5 percent in April, according to the Associated Press.) By comparison, the Midwest and the areas known as the Rust Belt of industry have posted a much lower population growth over the past decade. The Midwest grew by 3.9 percent and the Northeast by 3.2 percent.

"The geography is clearly shifting, with the West beginning to emerge as America's new heartland," said Robert Lang, a sociology professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, to the Associated Press.

Housing problems Or is it? Not everyone is attributing the population growth in the South and West to a transitory work force.

In a report released earlier this year, Challenger, Gray and Christmas Inc. said the percentage of job seekers relocating for new positions fell to historic lows in 2010.

Challenger, Gray and Christmas, a global outplacement and executive coaching firm, reported an average of 7.6 percent of job seekers relocated each quarter for new positions.

That is down from an average of 13.3 percent per quarter in 2009 and 11.6 percent in 2008.

John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray and Christmas, blamed the housing market.

"Job seekers who own a home - even if they are open to relocating for a new job - are basically stuck where they are if they are unable or unwilling to sell their homes without incurring a significant loss," he said, in the report.

Fewer companies are willing to help job seekers with relocation expenses, because many are still in "cost-containment mode," Challenger said.

He said the situation could get worse, as reports have emerged showing price slumps in housing markets that have traditionally been stable - Atlanta, Seattle, Minneapolis.

In addition, many local economies have experienced slight improvements, which is encouraging job seekers to stay local.

"While the gains have been small, for the most part, they may have been enough to lift job seekers from the sense of desperation that often compels people to relocate," Challenger said.

The difficulties in some housing markets isn't necessarily new.

When the main waves of hiring were ongoing at the Dubuque IBM center two years ago, Shannon Gaherty said some new area workers were struggling to sell their homes in other areas.

Gaherty is the newcomer relations coordinator for Greater Dubuque Development Corp.

The ripple effects of those markets continue to be felt, according Rick Dickinson, executive director at Greater Dubuque.

"Some (newcomers) are having challenges in selling a home that they're leaving or being able to swing a mortgage in Dubuque when they arrive," Dickinson said. "So they're starting over." Newcomer relations The number of newcomers in Dubuque has tapered off from a peak in 2010, a decline that is in part related to the mass hiring at IBM being finished, according to Dickinson.

But that slowdown may also be related to the national trends, Dickinson said.

He added that there is still a stream of new arrivals coming in, because job opportunities still exist here.

"Obviously, technology skills comes to mind with IBM. We also have manufacturers looking for welders, CNC operators. All those people need a helping hand to easily transition to Dubuque," Dickinson said.

In early 2009, area leaders launched an effort called Dubuque Works, designed to address work force issues in the region.

The program was put together in anticipation of new waves of workers arriving in the area, in large part through IBM's promise to fill 1,300 jobs at its downtown global delivery center and about 200 new jobs at Hormel Foods'local processing plant.

The project included a newcomer relations program to assist those moving to the community for jobs, a program that has been in effect for two years.

Greater Dubuque and Northeast Iowa Community College recently began offering a class called Distinctively Dubuque, designed to help newcomers get adjusted to the area.

There have been 86 participants in the six-week course so far, Dickinson said.

The newcomer relations program assisted 411 newcomers and 68 companies between July 1 of last year and June of this year, all people who sought out the program services, according to Dickinson.

He said 121 community tours were conducted through the program.

Employers using the program services are on the rise, Dickinson said.

The program is funded by the city, the Dubuque Racing Association and Dubuque County. Dickinson said as long as there is demand and return on investment, the service will continue.

(c) 2011 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

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