NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Upward mobility is back. If your local job market is tapped out and you can't find the position you really want, it may be time to make a move – in fact, now may be the best time in years to relocate for a new job. Last year, the percentage of job seekers making a move to a new city for a better career opportunity climbed to its highest level since 2009. Improving housing and job markets are big reasons why.

An annual average of 13.3% of job seekers moved for new jobs in 2013 – an increase of 36% over 2012, according to a quarterly survey conducted by the global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

This increased mobility among job seekers could help accelerate the financial recovery and provide relief to employers struggling to find local talent, the firm says.

"Relocation is rarely the most desirable option for job seekers," says John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "There is a lot of cost and risk involved. The collapse in the housing market, which was a primary factor behind the recession, made relocation even more unattractive, as many job seekers were stuck in homes with market values well below what was owed on the mortgage. In 2013, we saw a rebound in home buying and home prices. Fewer mortgages are 'under water,' which is making it easier to move."

A recent report from the National Association of Realtors reveals a majority of metropolitan areas experienced strong year-over-year gains in home prices in the fourth quarter of 2013. The median price for single-family homes increased 10% in the fourth quarter to $196,900, compared to $178,900 a year earlier. The NAR reports that one in six metropolitan areas have seen house values return to pre-recession levels. And last year foreclosures fell to their lowest level since 2007, according to RealtyTrac.

"All of this is good news for the job seeker who can greatly increase his or her chances of finding employment by expanding the search beyond the local market," says Challenger. "There are definitely regions of the country that are recovering faster than others. Certainly the 78 metropolitan areas where unemployment was below 5% as of December represent a great list of cities to explore when one is willing to consider relocation."

These "low-unemployment-high-opportunity" cities numbered just 29 in June, he says.

The list of cities with unemployment under 5% include Springfield, Mo.; Austin, Texas; Oklahoma City; Washington, D.C.; Boulder, Colo.; and Gainesville, Fla. Another 93 cities have an unemployment rate between 5% and 6%, and include Tampa, Fla.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Nashville; and Seattle.

"In areas with unemployment below 6%, it is likely that many employers are having a difficult time filling open positions with locally available talent," says Challenger. "Moreover, many of the areas experiencing low unemployment also enjoy a lower cost of living. Job seekers should not assume that the industry driving the growth in these areas is the only one hiring. One strong industry can lift the other sectors in that area, including health care, education, business services, and so on."

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet