We develop an urban equilibrium job search model with employed and unemployed individuals where residential mobility of the unemployed is restricted. We assume a standard mono-centric model (firms are located in one location), but allow for imperfect labour markets. In contrast to models with perfect labour markets, the model predicts that the employed are only partially compensated for commuting costs in the form of wages. As a result, rent gradients are less steep than predicted by standard urban theories that assume perfectly competitive labour markets. © 2007 the author(s). Journal compilation © 2007 RSAI.