Sign of the (Economic) Times: Relocations Are Up

It’s tough for learned economists, much less the average HR manager, to get a good fix on how just strong the current economic recovery is, but here’s another small sign that might help: relocation and shipping companies this spring reported their first month over month increase since the Great Recession kicked in.

The American Association of Moving and Storage reports that “household shipments in April were up for the first time since in at least two years,” according to a story in the San Diego Union Tribune, and although the increase was small (0.8 percent), that compares with monthly decreases this year of 20.6 percent (January), 15.6 percent (February), and 3.1 percent (March). And, it’s up from the peak decrease of 33.4 percent that relocation companies reported in October 2009.

Yes, an increase of 0.8 percent isn’t much, but ANY kind of an increase tells you that there is moving and relocating going on – and an increase in moving and relocating is usually driven by an increase in hiring and job growth. That’s a positive economic sign, to say the least.

“In San Diego, Katherine Kennedy, chief executive of Relocation Coordinates, said her corporate clients ordered about 90 moves this month, about double year-ago levels,” the Union Tribune reported. “Half of them involve moves into San Diego, a few out of San Diego and the rest between other corporate locations, including some overseas.”

Bryan Bloom, president of Priority Moving in San Diego and an agent for Wheaton Van Lines, told the newspaper that although most of his moves are people relocating locally or out of the region, “Wheaton’s moves nationally are soaring — up 17 percent for the week of June 6, compared with the same period last year, and up 38 percent for the week of June 13 year-over-year.”

“The overall movement within the industry is coming out of the doldrums,” he said. “The statistics are telling us that the mobility of people has been at an all-time low. How often people move has been the lowest since World War II.”

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Make no mistake about it; the numbers surrounding nationwide relocations are small but positive, encouraging but fragile. They’re not enough to say we’re out of the woods yet, economically, but they do indicate that we’ve bottomed out and are starting to grow again — if you believe that increasing relocations are a positive sign of economic activity

“It’s a very, very slow recovery,” said John Bisney, spokesman for the moving and storage association. Told the Union Tribune. “Clearly, we’re not seeing anything of a big jump. That’s what all the economic forecasts and analysts say. They are seeing this as a very tenuous recovery.”

A tenuous recovery yes, but if you hire and relocate people, a positive sign nonetheless. If you work for a company that has cut back on moving and relocating people, you might want to take another look at your budget, because if you believe in these trends, you may just be doing more of that in the months ahead.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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