30 Metro Areas with the Highest Call Center Saturation Rate

by King White, on Apr 24, 2017 2:31:07 PM

The call center saturation rate continues to be one of the most widely utilized ways of measuring labor market competitiveness during the site selection process. The saturation rate estimates the percentage of the labor force employed incall center operations within a commutable labor shed. However, identifying what call centers are already located in the area and how many employees they have can be challenging. To help you understand more about call center saturation, our team at Site Selection Group thought we would provide some useful advice and identify some of the most saturated labor markets in the U.S.

Why did site selectors start measuring call center saturation rates?
Site selection firms started using call center saturation rates in the mid-1990s when the call center industry was growing rapidly. Back then, call centers were clustered together in larger metro areas where they had easy access for management, more robust fiber infrastructure and available real estate.  Cities like Atlanta, Dallas, Phoenix and Tampa were ground zero for the fast-growing call center industry. 

As the industry continued to grow, employee attrition rates began to escalate and wage rates increased as call centers competed for labor. Companies started changing their location strategies as they wanted to reduce employee attrition and minimize wage inflation. Instead of clustering together, companies wanted to avoid other call centers so they could be an employer of choice in the local labor market. As a result, site selectors began measuring the level of competitiveness using the call center saturation rate.

How to calculate the call center saturation rate     
The hardest part of calculating the saturation rate is identifying the existing call centers in a labor market. Economic development organizations try to track the call centers in their community but often don’t do a good job, especially in larger metro areas. You can also look for job postings to help see who is hiring in the market. Once you gather the existing call center information, you simply add up the number of employees and divide it by the total labor force.  

For example, a community with labor force of 250,000 with 5,000 workers employed in call centers has a saturation rate of 2%. This means that when 2,500 more call center jobs are created that the saturation rate will reach the critical rate of 3%. Therefore, you can have five new call centers of 500 employees each enter the market before reaching the higher risk rate of 3%.

When is a labor market saturated?
When evaluating call center saturation, it is critical to understand when a market has become saturated. The rule of thumb is that when the saturation rate exceeds 3%, the market is considered saturated. A healthy saturation rate is between 1 and 2%. However, it is critical to look at the number of jobs remaining before reaching the next saturation threshold. 

The above example is very important, especially when looking at smaller communities with a labor force of less than 50,000 where you can quickly tap out a labor market by one new center entering the market. Due to the higher risk, call centers have been migrating back to larger markets in the last few years, which is reverse of the trend seen in the late ’90s when call centers were going to very small labor markets to take advantage of lower labor costs. 

Most saturated markets    
To help see where some of the most saturated labor markets in the U.S. are located, Site Selection Group has identified the top 10 most saturated labor markets in three categories.  The categories are based on the population size of the metro area. Here are the rankings:

Top 10 Most Saturated Call Center Metro Areas
with Population over 1 Million 

Metro Area State Call Center Saturation Rate
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater FL 4.96%
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale AZ 4.94%
Salt Lake City UT 4.80%
Tucson AZ 4.48%
San Antonio-New Braunfels TX 4.40%
Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia NC-SC 4.07%
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell GA 4.04%
Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls NY 3.82%
St. Louis MO-IL 3.65%
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News VA-NC 3.31%


Top 10 Most Saturated Call Center Metro Areas

with Population between 500,000 to 999,999

Metro Area State Call Center Saturation Rate
Des Moines-West Des Moines IA 4.23%
Columbia SC 4.12%
Greensboro-High Point NC 4.09%
El Paso TX 3.86%
Scranton-Wilkes-Barre-Hazleton PA 3.81%
Tulsa OK 3.44%
Lakeland-Winter Haven FL 3.43%
Colorado Springs CO 3.33%
Omaha-Council Bluffs NE-IA 3.31%
Spokane-Spokane Valley WA 3.31%


Top 10 Most Saturated Call Center Metro Areas

with Population between 250,000 to 499,999 


Metro Area State Call Center Saturation Rate
Sioux Falls SD 8.28%
Utica-Rome NY 4.96%
Hagerstown-Martinsburg MD-WV 4.83%
Cedar Rapids IA 4.08%
Springfield MO 3.60%
Waco TX 3.34%
Trenton NJ 3.23%
Duluth MN-WI 2.88%
Huntington-Ashland WV-KY-OH 2.68%
Brownsville-Harlingen TX 2.64%



Call center saturation rates continue to be a great way to evaluate the competitiveness of a labor market when looking for the best call center sites. It is very important to identify who you will be competing against in the labor market before you blindly pick a location. Despite high saturation rates, you will still find some metro areas that have available labor due to other demographic or economic conditions. As a result, you’ll want to make sure to conduct the proper due diligence on a labor market and not depend solely on one variable before picking where to locate your next call center.


Download our Call Center Saturation Whitepaper


Topics:Call Center



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