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Employees Declining Relocation

For the past seven years, family issues/ties have taken the top spot as a reason for declined relocations, while spouse/partner employment held second place. The impact of housing/mortgage concerns stayed within pre-recessionary levels, but it increased slightly over the past two years. Dual-income households with family commitments continue to be a prime reason for declined relocations.

  • Remaining near its lowest point in more than 15 years, housing/mortgage concerns remain within pre-recession levels for the fifth time since 2007 overall and for the fourth year in a row across company size. However, one in four firms indicated it still played a role in their employees’ decisions to stay put.
  • Family issues/ties continues to take the top spot among firms of all sizes, although it nearly ties with spouse/partner employment among large firms. Family issues/ties was cited by more than half of firms across size at similar levels. However, this reason falls notably, from around two-thirds of firms overall from 2011-2017, to just over half (52%) last year.
  • Spouse/partner employment falls from the far higher levels recorded 2013-2018 (52%+) back to levels similar to the period of the Great Recession and recovery (39%-48%, 2007-2012). The impact of spouse/partner employment had fallen to 39% in 2011, likely due to the Great Recession’s effect on employment opportunities, but it had returned to more historically normative levels and higher in recent years. This shift downward may reflect more flexible work arrangements becoming normalized in recent years (i.e. telecommuting/working from home) and greater job opportunities (high unemployment rate).
  • Nearly half of both small and large companies say employees simply told them they had no desire to relocate, compared to only around one-third of mid-size firms last year. This reason even surpassed spouse/partner employment at small firms (48% vs. 43%). Close to half of large firms said employees told them the destination location was undesirable. Convincing employees to relocate continues to present more challenges.

When asked about the number of employees declining relocation in 2019:


Employee reluctance in 2019 stayed above post-recession levels for a second year (29% vs. 26% in 2018 vs. 11%-18% during 2010-2013). This comes after employee reluctance trended lower in 2015-2017 (18%-22%) and returned to the higher levels of 2008 & 2014 (28%) and 2009 (29%). While more than a tenth of firms across sizes saw reluctance decrease last year, it appears the reluctance to accept relocation offers experienced a slight uptick overall, even as organizations worked to secure talent in the right locations.

  • Half of small firms saw employees decline relocation last year, similar to 2015-2016 & 2018 levels (50% vs. 48%, 55% & 46%), notably higher than 2017 (39%) and above historical norms. Increased reluctance also remains above previous recessionary levels for small firms for a second year (25% & 26% (2018) vs. 15%-19%).
  • Increased reluctance at mid-size firms also remains notably higher for a second year (35% & 32% (2018) vs. 20% (2017)), staying above the 2014-2015 level (30%) and recessionary ranges (20%-30%) for the previous four years.
  • Increased reluctance among large firms jumped higher last year (28%) and above post-recession recovery ranges (7%-21%) following an increase in 2017-2018 (19% & 18% vs. 12% (2016)). However, it remains markedly lower than recessionary levels (40+%) for large firms overall.
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