Economy Drove Employee Relocations in 2009

April 22, 2010 ( - For the first time since 2003, a lack of qualified talent locally was not the biggest influence on corporate relocations in 2009, according to Atlas Van Lines' 43rd annual Corporate Relocation Survey.

A press release said more than half (53%) of companies cited economic conditions as the biggest influence on relocations, with just 31% citing a lack of qualified people locally. Responding firms indicated the number of employees relocated and relocating budgets significantly decreased compared to 2008. 

Forty-two percent of companies said they moved fewer employees last year, compared to just one-fourth experiencing declines in relocation volumes in 2008. Additionally, over a third saw decreases in relocation budgets last year (compared to 19% in 2008), while only 18% indicated budgets increased.  

More than one in five firms surveyed expect relocation volumes to increase in 2010, a great improvement over last year, when more than half of surveyed firms predicted a decrease in relocations, the announcement said. The percentages of firms expecting increases in relocation volumes and budgets in 2010 are roughly twice that of last year. Nearly two-thirds of firms expect international relocation volumes to remain stable.   

Other survey findings include:

  • Eighty-two percent of firms have a formal relocation policy.
  • Relocations were almost equally split between transferees and new hires in 2009.
  • Males age 36-40 were the most frequently relocated employee in 2009; only 17% of relocations involved female employees.
  • Forty-five percent of relocations involved employees with children; 60% of those relocated were homeowners.
  • One-quarter of responding firms give employees one week or less to accept a relocation offer.
  • More than three-fourths of companies reimburse moving companies to pack all items; 29% will even reimburse the cost of moving pets.
  • The Midwest was the top destination of transfers (36%) followed by the South (28%) and the Northeast (27%).
  • Among international relocations, the most frequent destinations were Europe (47%) followed by Asia/Pacific Rim (36%).
  • Over the past two years the percentages of firms using full, lump-sum (relocation allotment) or partial reimbursement for new hires have become nearly identical.

Employees More Willing to Move in 2009  

Employees appear to have been a little more willing to relocate in 2009 than they were the previous year, according to Atlas Van Lines' 43rd annual Corporate Relocation Survey – a good thing, since 37% of companies say declining an opportunity that involves relocation can hinder an employee's career.  

Just over half (56%) of responding firms saw employees decline relocations compared to nearly-two thirds (65%) in 2008.   

For the second year in a row, housing/mortgage concerns surpassed family issues/ties as the number one reason for refusing relocation. Seventy-seven percent of respondents cited housing concerns, including worries about selling a home, as the reason for declining relocation.   

Two-thirds of firms responding to the survey offer employees incentives to encourage relocations, with relocation bonuses, loss-on-sale protection, cost-of-living adjustments, and extended duplicate/temporary housing benefits rounding out the top four methods used. In 2009, extending duplicate/temporary housing benefits jumped to the most popular perk, with 69% of firms offering this incentive. So successful were these incentives that 90% of companies said they "almost always" or "frequently" convinced an employee to relocate, according to the press release.   

Forty-five percent of companies also help an employee's spouse find work in a new location.  

Nearly 300 corporate relocation professionals completed the online survey between January 11 and February 26. Complete survey results are at