For unemployed workers or young people looking to get a foothold in the labor market, finding a job isn’t just about looking at fields where new jobs are being added.
(Though last week’s payroll report showed that companies are creating positions at a nice clip).
A much better source of jobs is existing positions that are vacated by current workers who found a better opportunity at the company across town. That kind of turnover makes up the bulk of what economists call “churn,” and it generally dwarfs job creation and destruction, as millions of people quit their jobs and are replaced.
As we note today, the national rate of churn has dropped dramatically over the last decade and still remains far below prerecession levels, according to new research from Economic Modeling Specialists International and its parent company, CareerBuilder.
But the picture becomes much more variable when examined on a local level, thanks to the industry mix and economic conditions of different regions.
“A high churn economy…is like a body with healthy circulation,” notes EMSI’s report, and some cities are looking quite hearty.
While nationally, churn declined by about one-fifth between 2003 and 2013, in Boston it rose 1.5%, the only large metro area to experience an increase over the decade. EMSI, which looked at churn by region and occupational group, found that high turnover in information-technology jobs pushed the overall churn rate up.
Other metros that have been resilient, seeing only single-digit declines, were Worcester, Mass.; Raleigh, N.C.; and New Haven, Conn.
Not surprisingly, higher turnover is frequently associated with rising wages and in-demand skills, as desperate employers lure workers away from their current jobs with the promise of raises, or workers with valuable expertise negotiate better compensation.
For example, the churn rate for Web developers in San Jose, Calif., doubled between 2003 and 2013. The average salary for a Silicon Valley developer is about $109,000, according to job board Indeed. That’s up from $101,000 a year ago, which, at the time, was about one and a half times the national average.
But mobility is down in some regions, reflecting not just the pain of the recession but also some of the factors that are reducing geographic mobility. Americans are simply not moving around as much as they used to. They’re tied down by things like dual-career considerations, homes that were and maybe still are financially underwater, and a lack of cash or credit to pay the upfront costs of moving.
Cities in Florida were hit the hardest. The Sarasota, Fla., area had the largest decline, followed by Norfolk, Va.; Tampa, Fla.; and Jacksonville, Fla. All of those cities had churn rates above 100% in 2003—meaning that on average, workers were unlikely to stay in their job for a full year—and by 2013, all were below Boston’s rate of 88.3%. (Churn rates can be over 100% thanks to the presence of many high-turnover, low-wage jobs, such as retail and fast-food positions).
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