Mon January 24, 2011
Planet Money

The Double Whammy: Unemployed And Underwater

In the economic disaster zone that is Miami, the unemployment rate is over 13 percent, and nearly half of the people with mortgages owe more than their home is worth.

Some of the unemployed would gladly move elsewhere to find work — but many are tied down because they are underwater on their mortgage, the Miami Herald reports.

Here's a local headhunter quoted in the Herald piece:

I've had discussions with people who say, "I'm willing to [relocate]'' ... The first question I ask is: "How long have you owned your home?" If it's since '99, great. If it's 2005, that's a problem. ... You're going to hire someone for a $90,000 IT job and they're $30,000 underwater on their home — how is that going to work?

This points to one of the costs of home ownership that was little noticed until the housing bust: It makes it much harder for workers to take a new job in another part of the country. That helps keep Miami's unemployment rate far above the national average.

Of course, owning a home still makes sense for lots of people. But as Richard Florida (of Creative Class fame) has argued, people should think more about the potential loss of mobility that comes with home ownership:

Today's idea-driven economy requires a more mobile work force that can seize opportunities wherever and whenever they arise. Owning a home may actually be a drawback given the economic flexibility required to power long-lasting recovery.

Hat tip: Calculated Risk Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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