Top cities for relocation

Posted by Shankar Mishra

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May 16, 2014

TheLadders' data study finds 35 percent of job seekers want to relocate.

Locations have always played a key role in the availability of certain types of jobs. Detroit became the hub of automotive industry in the early twentieth century; San Francisco attracted technology companies; New York City focused on financial, media and now technology companies. I‘ve previously shared how the ratio of job seekers per available job varies across the country. The reality of the job market is that the right job isn’t always available within a commutable distance. This prompted us to investigate just how often the job seekers in our 6-million-member database apply for jobs outside their current location.

Job seekers stay local in large cities

Looking at the past year’s job application data, it is evident that out-of-town applications represent a significant share of all applications on TheLadders. Nationwide, 35% of the applications sent out were from job seekers applying to jobs outside their current location, or “DMA” (Designated Market Area). Further, we also observed that the likelihood of a job seeker applying to a job outside of their DMA varies greatly by the population of that location. The chart below highlights that as the population of the DMA decreases, the likelihood of candidates sending applications outside their current location increases. The adjacent table details the top ten DMAs, by population, and their ranking in terms of application going to out of town jobs.


What we see in the chart above is that job seekers in the 10 highest-ranked DMAs only sent 22 percent of their applications out of town, compared to the national average of 35 percent. Job seekers in all other DMAs exceeded the national average, with the 11th to 25th most populated locations sending 43 percent of applications out of town, while cities with a population rank of 51 or higher sent over 70 percent of their job applications to other DMAs. This is significant, considering that the DMAs ranked 11-25 include many large cities such as Phoenix, Seattle and Detroit.

Recruiters don’t consider relocation a deal-breaker

But are these out-of-town applications worthwhile? We next examined the employer side of the equation. If employers are not likely to entertain out-of-town applications, then the volume of applications to alternate DMAs may not matter. To determine this, we reviewed the rate at which employers accept applications that seem a potential “fit” for the position. We found that 12.7 percent of candidates nationwide received a positive rating by the recruiter, compared to an 11.3 percent acceptance rate for applications that were from outside the job’s location. It seems that if candidates are treated negatively because they require relocation, it isn’t by a large degree at all. Good news for relocation candidates!

Where do the job seekers go?

We’ve determined that more job seekers from smaller DMAs look for out-of-town opportunities. But where do they go? The following chart highlights the choice destinations for these individuals. New York appears to be the most desirable relocation DMA (not surprising to TheLadders team, but we’re partial). An interesting phenomenon here is the emergence of Dallas as the preferred relocation destination, ahead of larger DMAs such as Chicago.


The flip side of this view highlights where the applications are being sent from candidates who are relocating out of the big cities. The following visualization depicts four metro areas and the migration trends of their applications to other cities. Philadelphia pushes a lot of job applications to New York – proximity may play a role here. Besides New York, Dallas figures rather prominently, as the major out-of-town job-application destination out of these four metro areas.


Breaking this down one layer further, we see that not every location is considered equally desirable across professional functions. The chart below depicts which functions are gaining out-of-town applications (by city) and in which functions and locations the job seekers are looking to new DMAs for their next job. For example, New York remains dominant in the fields of finance, marketing and technology, with many out-of-town applications flowing in. Atlanta is emerging as a hot destination for marketing and sales, and Dallas is growing as a technology hub.


If you build it, job seekers will come

While we didn’t dive deeper than one year into TheLadders’ data, a definite trend emerged that seems to hold true throughout history: Job seekers go where the jobs are. As different locations attract specific functions (such as New York or Dallas becoming technology hubs, or Atlanta and Boston increasing their number of marketing jobs), the influx of applications from alternate locations grows.

We don’t know how this landscape will change next year, but if our current findings are an indicator, we believe we will see more and more professionals going to cities considered to be top hubs for their industry. It appears these job seekers will be met with success, and have the opportunity to explore new and exciting chapters in their careers.

Click on the following link for more data-driven articles from TheLadders.


Shankar Mishra is the Vice President of Data Science and Analytics at TheLadders. When he is not working to find a simpler solution to difficult problems, he is brainstorming ways to leverage available data to tell a good story. Some of this brainstorming may very well take place on the green with three strangers in his golf foursome.

Topics: TheLadders Insights