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HR Trends and Insights

Long Distances Separate Jobs and Job Seekers

By September 19, 2019January 13th, 2022No Comments

Longer commutes spell trouble for anyone who has to do them daily. But researchers are now finding that these long commutes are keeping some residents from gaining employment and employers from filling jobs.

When residents live far from jobs, it is called “spatial mismatch” by economists. Typically, it impacts low-income residents in cities. It occurs when jobs are located in one place, but there’s a mismatch because job seekers live too far away to commute to the jobs. This creates shortages with high unemployment rates and more extended periods of joblessness for residents.

If you don’t think it’s happening in your area guess again. The Urban Institute found it in 12 of 16 Metropolitan Statistical Areas, including Boston, New York City, San Francisco, Minneapolis and Chicago.

Read more: How Long is Too Long to Commute to Work?

There are several ways governments are trying to eliminate the spatial mismatch.

The first is to strengthen career pathways. When potential employees don’t want to travel for work, it might mean the workers don’t see the job as a career, or the housing costs might be too steep. An important step is to use these jobs as a springboard in the career ladder, so workers feel a long commute is worth it.

It’s also vital for government and business to look for ways to create housing near jobs and transit stops. Some places, like Columbus, Ohio, are creating and preserving affordable housing that allows workers with lower incomes to live near jobs. Other cities are reviewing zoning codes and push for denser housing like multi-unit buildings.

Finally, the government can improve access to public transit, particularly through passing laws that mandate commuter benefits and other solutions that promote ridership.


With commuter benefits, employees can save up to $265 per month tax-free and reduce the cost of their commutes. Commuter benefits can be used for public transit, rideshares, or qualified parking costs.

Businesses can save $41 per month per employee who takes advantage of the commuter benefits. If you have 50 employees participate for one year, the savings can top $24,000 annually.

To learn more about commuter benefits, download the 101 Guide!

Download the Commuter Benefits 101 Guide