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Analysis: Some Workers on the Move Again, but Most Stuck

Reuters (05/24/12)

Job opportunities in the U.S. are plentiful for those with skills in hot demand, but for most Americans, the country’s once-mobile labor market is steadily becoming more static, according to recent studies. “In the early 1990s about 3% of Americans moved between states each year. Today that rate has fallen in half,” Greg Kaplan, an economist at the University of Pennsylvania, and Sam Schulhofer-Wohl, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, wrote in a recent study. The plunge in housing prices has discouraged people from moving to find work, according to a recent study by economist Plamen Nenov at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

However, companies are hiring, and in many states, housing prices are showing tentative signs of recovery. “People are now starting to feel more confident and have a little bit more flexibility,” says Joanie Ruge, chief employment analyst for the U.S. arm of staffing group Randstad. She notes that companies are more likely than in recent years to sweeten job offers with relocation packages for skilled workers, especially in states with booming energy or technology sectors, such as Texas and California.