April 10, 2019 / 10:12 PM / a month ago

U.S. Midwest floods prompting workers to migrate to safer ground: LinkedIn data

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Deadly floods that bear the fingerprints of climate change are prompting an exodus of workers from the U.S. Midwest, the world’s biggest professional social network, LinkedIn, said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Homes sit in flood waters after leaving casualities and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, with waters yet to crest in parts of the U.S. midwest, in Peru, Nebraska, U.S., March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Karen Dillon

The website, on which millions of U.S. workers maintain profiles, said data showed a spike in members changing their work location from areas flooded last month to cities in the Southwest and on the West Coast.

“When you look at the most real-time data that we have, and that’s our ‘job starts’, we’ve seen those come down quite a bit in the cities that have been hit,” said Guy Berger, chief economist at LinkedIn.

The finding emerged from a LinkedIn analysis of user-generated data. LinkedIn users can share their location and job information - such as when they start a new job - on their profile.

Hiring rates tracked through the platform dropped across the Midwest, LinkedIn said in its April U.S. workforce report, published on Monday.

Omaha, Nebraska, and Fargo, North Dakota, registered among the most extreme decreases in hiring rates at nearly 8 and 14 percent respectively, it said.

The findings were based on the more than 155 million profiles of U.S. workers that are listed on the site, the company said.

The U.S. labor force - employed and unemployed people - totaled 163 million people last month, according to the Department of Labor.

Climate change had a hand in the record floods that have damaged crops and drowned livestock along the Missouri, Red and Mississippi rivers, especially in Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri, scientists have said.

Fargo was also among communities impacted, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

LinkedIn’s workforce report said that it has noticed “migration trends” following other natural disasters, such as Hurricane Irma, which hit the U.S. East Coast in 2017.

Workers would likely move to such cities as Denver, Dallas-Fort Worth, Phoenix and Seattle, largely due to their proximity, affordability and growing economies, Berger predicted.

It was unclear how permanent the retreat of workers from Midwest areas that were recently flooded would prove to be, said Berger.

But a repeat of extreme weather events could lead to “a sustained bleed of talent,” he said.

A handful of American cities, from Duluth, Minnesota, to Cincinnati, Ohio, have begun promoting themselves as future havens for U.S. climate migrants as climate change is predicted to cause elsewhere intense natural disasters.

Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo, Editing by Jason Fields. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers climate change, humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking and property rights. Visit news.trust.org/climate

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