Even in weak employment markets, the United States has typically had a trump card to play. The nation's workers are legendary for their willingness to travel across the country for new opportunities.
The result has been a speedier recovery of job growth than in Europe and possibly a higher productivity rate, since skilled workers are better matched to openings.
With the August employment report on Friday expected to show little improvement in the job market, America has never needed this flexibility more. Yet, at the risk of adding to the gloom, this advantage appears to be fading fast. The good news is that the United States still boasts one of the most dynamic labor markets of any rich nation. OECD rankings of its 30 wealthy member nations put the U.S. far
ahead of other large countries. (It comes second only to Denmark, which has unmatched programs to help the unemployed back to work.)
Yet there has been a striking decline in U.S. mobility in recent years. Since 2000, the movement of Americans across state lines has halved to just 1.6 percent of the population this year -- the lowest rate since records began in 1948. Even movement between counties is at historic lows.