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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Housing Bust Impacts Worker Mobility

by Calculated Risk on 4/03/2008 01:06:00 AM

From Louis Uchitelle at the NY Times: Unsold Homes Tie Down Would-Be Transplants

The rapid decline in housing prices is distorting the normal workings of the American labor market. Mobility opens up job opportunities, allowing workers to go where they are most needed. When housing is not an obstacle, more than five million men and women, nearly 4 percent of the nation’s work force, move annually from one place to another — to a new job after a layoff, or to higher-paying work, or to the next rung in a career, often the goal of a corporate transfer. ...

Now that mobility is increasingly restricted. Unable to sell their homes easily and move on, tens of thousands of people... are making the labor force less flexible just as a weakening economy puts pressure on workers to move to wherever companies are still hiring.
Less worker mobility is kind of like arteriosclerosis of the economy. It lowers the overall growth potential.

Perhaps as many as 15 to 20 million households will be saddled with negative equity by 2009. Even if most of these homeowners don't "walk away", there might still be a negative impact on the economy due to less worker mobility.