Tara Sinclair and Mariano Mamertino’s paper takes a new approach to exploring migration by examining the factor of revealed job seeker preference of those searching for employment abroad. The Internet allows job seekers to explore employment around the world before they commit to moving. In this paper, job seeker interest is characterized across national borders through job search behavior on a large job search website. The authors focus on 15 EU countries where job seekers were able to use the same medium to search for jobs at home or abroad, some of whom may be currently abroad and looking to return home. They found that a small number of countries garner most of the interest of the cross-border job seekers sample, with 75% of the traffic going to the UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, and Belgium. Another 16% of the traffic is evenly divided between Spain, Italy, and Ireland. The UK attracted the most job seekers from abroad, with nearly 4 out of 10 European job searches looking outside of their home countries (but in one of the other EU 15 countries) arriving on The UK also was shown to receive significant interest from Commonwealth countries and the US. The authors determined this suggests that language/cultural affinity along with availability of visas does impact job search behavior, but cross-border search traffic is also affected by jobseekers’ views on the health of the labor market in both their home and destination countries. This assertion is supported by empirical evidence from a case study in Greece on the impact of a major political event on international job search.

The European Union (EU) permits the free movement of people within its member countries, allowing for cross-border job search analysis to take place without national border barriers influencing results. However, it becomes difficult to study migration in Europe because of a lack of appropriate data and an often unclear definition of migrant. To correct for these issues, this study used migration preferences based on job search because these data are both more timely and focus on revealed instead of self-reported preferences. Data was collected from the job search site indeed with separate websites for 15 EU countries. Indeed provided both a large potential sample of job seekers and the guarantee that people can search for jobs at home or abroad.

Their analysis produced multiple interesting results on job search behavior in the EU15 on cross-border job search flows. For example, 95% of job searches in the EU15 countries stayed within EU15 borders. Furthermore, smaller EU economies show the highest concentration of EU15 job search inflows, meaning job searches from abroad in these countries are much more likely to come from another EU15 country than other countries. The UK also produced interesting results, proving to be the only large European country with a significant number of people abroad searching for jobs in the UK than UK citizens looking outside of their country. However, many of these searches originated in the US and Commonwealth countries, suggesting as previous studies have that language/cultural affinity and visa availability influence job search behavior.

Another set of interesting findings focused on economic and labor conditions influencing job search behavior. Countries with high unemployment rates – like Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Italy – showed a higher-than-average share of EU-orientated job seekers. The authors argue that job seekers, when looking abroad for employment, provide an “evaluation” of both their home and destination country’s labor and economic conditions. Moreover, these evaluations can actually influence these countries’ economies, as those who are currently healthy will further benefit from the brain gain associated with positive net migration inflows. The spike in job searches going outside of Greece in the days following their announcement to exit the EU supports these conclusions. In future research, the authors plan to examine the determinants of cross country job search through the connection of data from the private sectors with data from other sources as well.

Download the full paper

Tara Sinclair earned a BA in Foreign Languages from Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, and an MA and PhD in Economics from Washington University in St. Louis. Before starting graduate school, she worked as a commercial real estate appraiser in Chicago. She has also been a visiting scholar at the St. Louis Federal Reserve and a visiting associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

Sinclair’s research interests focus on modeling, explaining, and forecasting labor market conditions, business cycle fluctuations, and other macroeconomic developments around the world. She is co-director of the GW Research Program on Forecasting and a senior fellow of the Indeed Hiring Lab, the research arm of the world's #1 job site. She is also a research professor at the Halle Institute for Economic Research (IWH) in Germany, and a research associate at the Center for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis (CAMA) at the Australian National University. She is regularly quoted by the press, including in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Financial Times, and has appeared on CNN, C-Span, NPR, Fox Business, Bloomberg Radio and TV, and various other national and international outlets.

Related work by Tara Sinclair: