Census: Remote work doubled during pandemic

Fully remote jobs more than doubled early in the COVID-19 pandemic and stayed elevated in 2021 as workers deemed “non-essential” delayed returning to the workplace, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday.

The bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation, a measure of the U.S. economic situation, found that home-based jobs jumped from 11% of all positions in 2019 to 23% in 2020 and dipped to 21% in 2021.

Over the same period, the share of on-site-only jobs dropped from 84% in 2019 to 74% in 2021, the first full year of the pandemic.

Hybrid jobs requiring a mix of remote and in-person work increased from 4% in 2020 to 6% in 2021, the Census found. That share was 5% in 2019 before it dropped slightly in 2020 amid pandemic lockdowns that kept non-essential workers home.

“A significantly larger percentage of on-site jobs (compared to mixed and fully home-based jobs) were considered essential in 2019 through 2021,” census researchers Clayton Gumber and Michael Burrows wrote in a summary. “By 2021 roughly 75% of on-site jobs were classified as essential, compared to about 60% of hybrid and 61% of fully home-based jobs.”

According to the report, hybrid employees were most likely to work from home on Fridays or Mondays. Along with fully remote employees, they were also the most likely to have regularity in their schedules.

From 2019 to 2021, the share of hybrid jobs with a predictable and fixed schedule grew from 81% to 84%. The share of fully remote jobs offering the same jumped from 66% in 2019 to 77% in 2021.

Over the same period, the share of fully on-site jobs with a predictable routine dropped slightly, from 73% to 71%.

The numbers confirm COVID-19 lockdowns “were a complete failure” that disrupted “team culture and workplace synergy,” said Andrew Crapuchettes, CEO of Idaho-based recruitment agency RedBalloon.

“No amount of remote work can replace these,” said Mr. Crapuchettes, who did not work on the census report. “At their core, good companies understand these truths.”

He noted that many remote workers moved to states with lower taxes and living expenses during the pandemic, putting pressure on employers to keep offering work-from-home positions.

“Overall, we’re seeing greater interest from employers in workplace job postings, and greater interest from job seekers in remote work postings,” Mr. Crapuchettes added. “This tug-of-war will likely continue as America recovers from the pandemic policy side effects.”

The census report found the share of fully on-site jobs in the finance and insurance, real estate and rental and leasing industries dropped from 67% in 2019 to 43% of positions in 2021.

Over the same period, the percentage of on-site public administration jobs fell from 86% to 67%.

Fully on-site computer and math jobs fell from a 60% majority in 2019 to a 32% minority in 2020 and to 30% in 2021.

Moving jobs were the only key industry not to go remote, with 97% of jobs being worked on-site in 2019 and 96% in 2021. That included stockers and order fillers, packers and packagers and industrial truck and tractor operators.

Many Americans quit those jobs early in the pandemic to find remote work or become independent contractors, said Sam Kain, a realtor and finance professor at Walsh College in Michigan. He pointed to federal data showing the labor participation rate plunged in 2020 and still has not recovered to 2019 levels.

“Part of the percentage ‘growth’ of the work at home sector comes from the decline in the manufacturing jobs in the country,” Mr. Kain said.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.


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