It's no secret the Asheville area has a lot of open jobs, and now that situation has garnered the area some national attention.
Asheville ranks fourth in Realtor.com's recent analysis of the "Top 10 Cities Job Seekers Are Now Flocking To." The real estate outfit outlines what it calls the "Great Reshuffle," the movement of American workers from larger, coastal to areas "where housing costs are lower and where newer tech hubs are emerging," a trend fueled in part by the ability to work remotely.
While Asheville isn't a tech hub, and the area's housing costs keep rising, the Asheville metro area does have a boatload of jobs.
"We have around 23,000 job openings in the Asheville metro and just over 8,000 unemployed individuals in the region," Nathan Ramsey, director of the Mountain Area Workforce Development Board, told the Citizen Times in late October. "If every unemployed individual got a job, we would still have around 15,000 job openings. Our greatest challenge is the decline in our workforce since March 2020."
To arrive at its top 10, Realtor.com says it "examined workforce migration data numbers provided by the employment website LinkedIn," and then investigated the impact on local real estate markets affected by this reshuffle.
"What we found were cities clustered in the South and West, all with steady economic growth, an abundance of jobs, and a lower cost of living," the article states.
“These regions have two big advantages: The weather is relatively warm, and housing is more affordable," Guy Berger, principal economist at LinkedIn, states in the article. "That was already making them big attractors to talent even before the pandemic. Now, with remote work more prevalent … that attraction has been turbocharged.”
The article does note that with the influx of new workers and residents, "these towns may not be cheap for much longer," as housing prices continue to skyrocket.
To calculate the "migration rate," LinkedIn checked "the number of migrants in a metro area who had changed their location over the past 12 months and then divided that by the total number of people in that area with LinkedIn profiles."
Asheville, has a "new worker rate" of 92, and the median list price of a home is $469,000, a 7% increase, Realtor.com notes. It also refers to "Artsy Asheville" being nestled in "the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains."
"It attracts newcomers with easy access to nature, a quirky vibe, a plethora of excellent restaurants, and a brewery on seemingly every other corner," author Sharon Lurye writes.
In the Realtor.com analysis, Asheville ranked No. 4, after Austin, Texas; Sarasota, Florida; and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Rounding out the top 10 are: Nashville, Tennessee; Boise, Idaho; Huntsville, Alabama; Denver, Colorado; Portland, Maine; and Phoenix, Arizona.
Realtor.com notes that the Asheville area boasts jobs in a range of fields, including manufacturing, tourism, and health care, citing a 2018 Citizen Times article about a strong manufacturing base in town.
it also mentions the tough housing market and escalating prices due in part to people moving to the area. The article cites Lauren McKinney, an agent with Beverly-Hanks Realtors in Asheville.
"Unfortunately for the locals, the people coming in have cash,” McKinney told Realtor.com. “They can sell their condo in Miami and pay cash for a million-dollar house. Unfortunately for the people in Asheville who are trying to get a mortgage, their offer just isn’t competitive.”
In general, the Asheville area is one of the most expensive in North Carolina. In a November presentation about the local economy, Maggie Smith, a research analyst with the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, noted the most recent cost of living index for the Asheville area was 106, or 6% above the national average, marking a high point.
"The area’s cost of living is among the highest cost of living in North Carolina and in the Southeast,” Smith said.
The local population continues to grow, though. Population in the Asheville Metropolitan Statistical Area (Buncombe, Haywood, Madison and Henderson counties) stands at 469,015, Smith said, making it the seventh largest of North Carolina’s 15 metro areas.
From 2010-20, the metro population grew by 10%. By 2030, the metro population is estimated to grow to 508,144, which could “open the door to new business opportunities and site selectors,” Smith said.
Tom Tveidt, founder of Syneva Economics in Asheville, said it's difficult to offer up concrete information on transplants moving here for work.
"The federal and state agencies that provide data on local population and employment activities are built on long-established, slow moving methodologies for producing accurate and reliable information," Tveidt said via email. "They were not designed to provide quick or speedy data."
As an example, Tveidt said, his "go-to data source for measuring how many and where people are moving from is the IRS, and their most recent statistics are for 2019, hardly the source of late breaking news."
Clearly, Tveidt said, the pandemic has caused "massive changes in employment and migration patterns, but there just isn’t much local detail on what has happened over even the last six or so months."
"Plus there are entirely new subjects, like working remotely, which government agencies currently have no reliable means to accurately report," Tveidt added.
Nathan Ramsey, director of the Mountain Area Workforce Development Board, said the Asheville area "has been a magnet for in-migration for many years.
"The pandemic has increased the availability for remote work, and we know if people can take their job with them, many will relocate to Western North Carolina due to our quality of life, over 1 million acres of public lands in our backyard and plentiful amenities," Ramsey said via email. "Part of what is driving housing prices up so rapidly is the telework boom. Telework tends to be concentrated in higher paying jobs so these individuals can afford to live here."
Ramsey also cited a previous report from LinkedIn where it showed the Asheville metro was number two in the nation for remote work among midsize cities, and number three overall.
While Tveidt appreciates private sources such as LinkedIn, that are helping to fill a void, he said "they lack the unbiased, transparent, historical data that governmental statistical agencies provide, which have been critical to making objective decisions-and impartial news reporting."
This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Asheville ranks fourth in Realtor.com's recent analysis