One of the key metrics used to measure a market’s competitiveness for call center labor is the saturation rate. The call center saturation rate measures the percentage of the labor force employed in call center CallCenter_123788959operations within a metropolitan area or similar defined labor shed.  This rate fluctuates each year as call center employers expand or contract their workforce. To help understand call center saturation, Site Selection Group identified some of the most saturated labor markets in the U.S. in 2015.

History of the call center saturation rate

The call center saturation rate emerged in the mid-’90s when the call center industry went through significant growth. Call centers became one of the hottest industries and led to establishment of some of the largest call centers in the country of which many are still operational today. These centers typically clustered into larger metro areas and housed more than 1,000 employees each since the technology infrastructure costs were so high. 

Due to the industry growth and scale of these operations, call centers began to see employee attrition rates escalate and wage rates increase as workers would switch jobs for as little as 50 cents per hour over their current wage. The supply and demand for call center workers had become imbalanced in many labor markets, which led to the creation of the call center saturation rate to measure labor market competitiveness. Today, call center saturation rates are a standard tool utilized by many leading site selectors and economic development organizations to determine if there is any room left in the labor market for another call center.

When is a 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 1-2%. However, it is critical to look at the number of jobs remaining before reaching the next saturation threshold. 

For example, a community with a labor force of 250,000 and 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 the saturation rate will reach the critical rate of 3%. Therefore, you can have five new call centers, each with 500 employees, enter the market before reaching the higher risk rate of 3%.

The above example is very critical, 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. 

What markets are the most saturated?

Site Selection Group has identified the top 10 most saturated labor markets in four 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 
Population over 1 Million
Metro Area Population Total Labor Force Call Center Employees Saturation Rate
Tampa, FL 2,919,219 1,437,566 73,460 5.11%
Phoenix, AZ 4,501,548 2,196,781 104,700 4.77%
Salt Lake City, UT 1,160,217 615,514 25,632 4.16%
San Antonio, TX 2,336,330 1,170,901 43,781 3.74%
St. Louis, MO-IL 2,806,626 1,484,257 53,951 3.63%
Atlanta, GA 5,629,693 2,949,224 103,354 3.50%
Buffalo, NY 1,133,630 587,912 20,524 3.49%
Nashville, TN 1,801,417 947,274 32,777 3.46%
Jacksonville, FL 1,417,070 727,960 25,030 3.44%
Virginia Beach, VA-NC 1,729,758 930,620 30,602 3.29%
Top 10 Most Saturated Call Center Metro Areas
 Population between 5000, to 999,999
Metro Area Population Total Labor Force Call Center Employees Saturation Rate
Greensboro, NC 748,849 381,715 20,498 5.37%
Des Moines, IA 614,231 342,184 16,327 4.77%
Columbia, SC 806,579 425,980 17,638 4.14%
El Paso, TX 855,290 384,431 15,409 4.01%
Scranton, PA 560,216 280,333 10,543 3.76%
Tucson, AZ 1,003,075 477,470 17,930 3.76%
Lakeland, FL 632,797 280,590 9,408 3.35%
Colorado Springs, CO 695,155 370,013 12,386 3.35%
Omaha, NE-IA 908,951 499,292 16,603 3.33%
Provo, UT 581,417 280,290 8,885 3.17%

Top 10 Most Saturated Call Center Metro Areas
Population between 250,000 to 499,999

Metro Area Population Total Labor Force Call Center Employees Saturation Rate
Hagerstown, MD-WV 261,234 133,164 6,490 4.87%
Utica, NY 296,910 145,858 7,106 4.87%
Cedar Rapids, IA 263,845 145,106 5,977 4.12%
Trenton, NJ 372,212 199,525 6,472 3.24%
Springfield, MO 454,702 229,076 6,850 2.99%
Duluth, MN-WI 280,063 143,652 4,178 2.91%
Lubbock, TX 307,774 159,685 4,541 2.84%
Huntington, WV-KY-OH 363,315 158,456 4,165 2.63%
Ocala, FL 341,632 138,101 3,483 2.52%
Roanoke, VA 313,826 159,319 3,978 2.50%

Top 10 Most Saturated Call Center Metro Areas
Population between 100,000 to 249,999
Metro Area Population Total Labor Force Call Center Employees Saturation Rate
Sioux Falls, SD 251,471 143,582 12,822 8.93%
Macon, GA 229,985 103,267 8,303 8.04%
London, KY 127,437 51,153 3,463 6.77%
Johnson City, TN 201,790 95,527 6,076 6.36%
Muncie, IN 117,380 56,265 3,066 5.45%
Sherman, TX 123,620 59,140 2,519 4.26%
Florence, SC 206,522 98,357 4,149 4.22%
Cumberland, MD-WV 100,245 44,843 1,874 4.18%
Fargo, ND-MN 232,348 141,288 5,838 4.13%
Lewiston, ME 107,598 58,080 2,394 4.12%



Call center saturation rates continue to be a standard way of evaluating the sustainability of labor markets in the U.S.; however, it is critical to closely review who your direct competition is in a labor market. Many metro areas that appear saturated may actually be highly underemployed call center markets, which give employers willing to pay higher wages a real opportunity to quickly attract a highly skilled workforce.  

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