If you have been unemployed for more than 12 months, or were laid off from a manufacturing or other steady job, where you live might have more to do with getting another job than any other single factor.
Yes, the U.S. unemployment rate is now at its lowest point in 10 years, at 4.5%. But that’s cold comfort if you are one of the millions of Americans that is unemployed, and trying to get back in. Much like real estate prices, national statistics tend to be useless; the only unemployment rate you need to worry about is the one where you live - and these unemployment rates are not distributed equally around the U.S. This asymmetry works against you if you live in a rustbelt town, or any place where globalization or automation has eliminated jobs and created an oversupply of workers. A surplus of workers in a town with high unemployment creates a particularly adverse situation: not only are there fewer jobs overall, the ones that are available pay lower wages due to the oversupply of labor. This situation is reversed in locations with low unemployment; there are more jobs, and the jobs tend to pay more because there are fewer skilled workers to fill each role.
San Mateo County, just South of San Francisco, currently has an unemployment rate of 2.9%, while San Francisco city is similarly low at 3%, some of the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S. This area has a heavily diversified economy, although Silicon Valley and the technology jobs created there are a major factor driving low unemployment. But unemployment in other areas of California is much higher; in one city (El Centro, CA), over 20%! The point here is that even in the same state, unemployment rates, and more importantly, availability of potential jobs, can vary drastically from one city or region to the next. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes unemployment rates by city/metro area on their website, which can be accessed at: https://www.bls.gov/bls/unemployment.htm
Conventional resume formats almost always list your name, physical address, telephone, and email at the very top of the first page. However, with a more mobile workforce, and an expanding digital footprint for all of us, this information is being replaced by information that is less geo-centric. I’m in the camp that believes you shouldn’t put your location/address on your resume; just list your name, phone #, email, and if you have them, a LinkedIn profile link and website URL. You have to make it past the first screen, and trust me, as someone who has reviewed thousands of resumes, recruiters and recruiting coordinators look for easy and quick ways to screen candidates out of the consideration pool. This is particularly true if it is a role that gathers multiple applications (some companies routinely receive 200-400 resumes per open position). Because your address and other contact information is at the very top of your resume, it’s one of the first things screeners look at and use as a screening criterion. If you get an interview, you can worry about how to explain your physical location then, but don’t give any company a reason toss your resume in the trash pile at first glance.
If no location is listed on your resume, a potential employer might ask you in a screening interview where you live, and indicate whether or not they would offer relocation for the job. Many senior executive positions offer relocation from one area to another, and even entry-level roles can sometimes be eligible for company paid relocation assistance if the role requires a skill that is in very high demand. Some companies don’t care about physical location; many companies allow telecommuting, and employees in field sales roles are often based out of home offices. More companies are adopting “lump-sum” relocation policies; this is where the company gives you a specific cash amount (say $5,000) that you can spend any way you want to relocate to the job location. Note that this is usually taxable income, however, unless the company specifically pays for each line item associated with your relocation (i.e. moving, storage, flights, hotel stays, etc.) you may be able to deduct relocation expenses on your itemized tax return. Even if the company does not offer relocation assistance of any type, you may still want to consider relocating at your own expense. The relatively small price of relocation in exchange for the very large benefit of being employed is usually worth the trade.
Another fairly common situation for job seekers who land jobs in cities or states other than where they live is to have an arrangement for the first 3-6 months where the employee travels back and forth several times per month from their current location to the job location. Usually these types of job offers come with the understanding that at some specific point in the future, you agree to relocate to the job location. This is common with families who may have kids in school, or in cases where you own a home and it may take you several months to sell or rent out your home. This can be an expensive arrangement for the company, so if it is a deal breaker for the company, and you really, really need the job, you could offer to pay all travel and lodging expenses to make this arrangement work.
Pulling up stakes and relocating is not a trivial thing to do, but if you weigh it against the likelihood of being unemployed for a very long time period, you should seriously consider it. After all, it may be your only shot to get back in the job market.
Do you have a relocation story to share on this blog? If so please comment.