Going Nowhere

Timothy Noah questions why so few unemployed Americans are moving for work:

Nobody has a better reason to pick up and move than someone who can’t find a job—or at least so it would seem. But while unemployed people remain likelier to migrate than employed people, they are much less likely to migrate than in previous decades. In 1956, for example, 7.6 percent of unemployed males moved from one state to another during the previous year. Subsequently that rate fell to 7 percent (1966), 5.9 percent (1976), 5.3 percent (1986), 4.4 percent (1996), 4.3 percent (2006), and, finally, 2.7 percent (2012).

He concludes that the jobless would move to the jobs … if only they could afford to live there:

Since 2009, when the recession ended, the median price of a new house in the United States has risen 13 percent, even as median household income has fallen by about 4 percent. That doesn’t pose much of a problem for a migrating architect whose income is already well above the median, and who is likelier to have existing home equity that he can transfer to another state. But for construction workers, for example, it’s likely to be a big problem, and a reason why they can’t easily move to where the best-paying jobs are. A construction worker can generally make more money in San Francisco than in suburban Fresno. But it won’t likely be enough more to make up the difference in the relative cost of living. Indeed, few working-class people earn enough money to live anywhere near San Francisco anymore, to the point that there is now a severe shortage of construction workers in the Bay Area.