A recent study from Glassdoor uses the site’s job search data to track how many candidates are looking for jobs outside their home cities and figure out which of the 40 largest American metro areas are the biggest talent magnets. Using a sample of more than 668,000 online applications on Glassdoor during the week of January 8-14, 2018, the study looks at where Americans are looking to move for work, who is moving, and why, Glassdoor’s chief economist Andrew Chamberlain elaborates in his introduction to the report.
One key finding is that while the prospect of a higher salary might seem like the most likely reason for a candidate to skip town (our research at CEB, now Gartner, shows that salary is consistently the most powerful attractor of talent), Glassdoor finds that it’s not the strongest driver of these moves:
- Salary drives candidates to move. But the effect is small. An extra $10,000 higher base salary predicts candidates are about a half percentage point (0.41 percentage points) more likely to be a metro mover — a statistically significant, but small effect.
- Better company culture is more attractive. Having a 1-star higher overall Glassdoor rating predicts candidates will be 2.5 percentage points more likely to move metros for a job. That’s statistically significant, and roughly six times larger than the impact of offering $10,000 higher pay.
Metro movers tend to be younger, better educated, and earn higher pay than candidates who stay put. This makes sense, insofar as moving cities is expensive and more likely to be worth the trouble for a high-paying job. The most mobile jobs, Glassdoor’s study found, include chemical and industrial engineers, software developers, and data scientists (and of course, flight attendants). All of these jobs pay enough to be worth moving for, but also aren’t available everywhere: A software engineer in rural Idaho, for example, has a much better chance of getting a job if they are willing to move to a tech hub like the San Francisco Bay Area. By comparison, the least mobile job title—bartender—is available anywhere.
San Francisco is indeed the most common destination for metro movers, Glassdoor notes in a press release, along with New York:
The study finds that San Francisco is the top destination among job seekers applying for jobs beyond their current metro (known in the study as metro movers). Of the total metro mover population in the study, 12.4 percent are applying to jobs in San Francisco. Job seekers see opportunities at companies like Facebook and Salesforce within the booming tech hub, overlooking the housing shortages and high cost of living. New York City has the second highest share of metro mover applications (8.4 percent), followed by San Jose (6.9 percent), Los Angeles (6.8 percent) and Washington D.C. (4.3 percent). The study finds these cities are largely magnets for the job seekers located in smaller cities nearby.
Rounding out the top ten are Boston, Chicago, Seattle, and the Texas metros of Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin. Glassdoor’s findings don’t mean these cities are swallowing up talent from all over the country, though: Most of the candidates looking to move to them are coming from nearby areas. For example. The city with the highest percentage of candidates looking for jobs elsewhere is Providence, Rhode Island, which Glassdoor notes is a college town in close proximity to the magnet city of Boston. The top five source cities also include the California cities of San Jose, Riverside, and Sacramento, along with Baltimore. All of these cities are within spitting distance of top-ten destination metro areas.
Also notice that San Jose appears on both lists. In fact, eight out of the top ten destination metros are also among the top five points of origin for job seekers moving to another city on that list, illustrating the significant degree to which these mobile talent communities are already concentrated in a relatively small number of hubs.
Glassdoor’s study shows that many Americans are looking to move for work, but economists have been concerned in recent years that the US labor market isn’t as mobile as it should be, given the wide variation in local unemployment rates. Part of the reason for this is that, once again, moving is expensive, and many workers can’t afford to move to a high-cost city like San Francisco or New York. Employers and policymakers continue to face the challenge of making hubs for good jobs more accessible to a broader segment of the population, while also bringing these good jobs to previously neglected parts of the country.