North Star Releases Nationwide Worker Migration Study

As quality of place and remote work drive relocation decisions, study finds only 12% move solely for a job.

Jacksonville, FL, Oct. 19, 2021 — North Star, a national place branding and marketing agency, today released “Why They Moved: A Study of American Migration to Small Cities,” a nationwide study that focuses on the motivations behind recent worker relocation. The study concentrates on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted relocation decision factors amid Upwork, an online work marketplace, reporting that 20.6% of the U.S. labor force who are committed to relocating for remote work, or about 4.7 million workers, will leave major cities.

The study surveyed 152 individuals from several backgrounds and locations who recently relocated to smaller U.S. metro areas that have fewer than one million residents. Most notably, the study found that only 12% of respondents moved solely for a new job, with 46% first looking for the right place to live and 42% equally balancing place and career. In addition, study findings helped prove the pandemic has shifted the workforce’s view on remote work, with just 15% preferring in-office work only.

“As a growing percentage of the U.S. workforce places a higher emphasis on remote work and location of career opportunities, cities and counties are investing more in the quality of their places and how they market their communities,” said Will Ketchum, President, North Star. “Our study helps demonstrate that when talented professionals seek to migrate away from larger markets, they will prioritize quality of place much higher than in the past. Your strategy for placemaking and place branding and marketing is more important now than ever.”

North Star previewed the study during its recent address at the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) Annual Conference in Portland, Oregon. North Star was joined at ICMA by session facilitator Doug Hewett, city manager of Fayetteville, North Carolina, as well as Kyle Moore, president of the Great River Economic Development Foundation and former mayor of Quincy, Illinois.

As part of the presentation, Moore presented Quincy’s strategies for branding and marketing their community to potential residents. This included the recent launch of Quincy’s resident and workforce recruitment campaign, “Quincy’s Calling,” which aims to help fill the city’s 700-plus open jobs by offering incentives to relocators as well as residents who refer relocation prospects.

“As a community that has recently invested nearly $200 million in public safety, education and schools, infrastructure, downtown and the riverfront, Quincy is a city prepared to welcome professionals from larger markets seeking a lower cost of living and family friendly lifestyle,” said Moore. “Working with North Star, we developed the Quincy’s Calling campaign to proactively market our differentiators. In the short time since launch, we’re already seeing noticeable interest from individuals interested in moving to Quincy.”

The Quincy’s Calling campaign represents one way that places are addressing the changing landscape of workforce migration evidenced in the North Star study. To see the study’s comprehensive findings, download the full report here.