Mar 29, 2023 - Economy

Remote work grew less popular last year

Share who work remotely in the U.S.
Data: BLS; Chart: Tory Lysik/Axios Visuals

Millions fewer Americans worked remotely last year, according to a new survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Why it matters: The data show the work world returning to a new normal, where there is some working from home — more than in the pre-COVID era — but less than at the height of the Zoom and sweatpants moment.

By the numbers: The share of establishments with employees rarely or never working remotely rose to 72.5%, up from 60.1% the year before.

  • On the flip side: Establishments with employees working remotely some or all of the time declined to 28% last year, down from 40% in 2021.
  • White-collar industries still have a large share of folks working from home. In the information sector (which includes tech and media companies), 67% of firms had people working from home some or all the time last year.
  • Financial services saw a big drop from 2021 to 2022 — from 55% to 33%.

Methodology: An establishment is defined as a single location where one predominant business activity is conducted. These surveys can capture companies of all sizes.

  • The survey was conducted in August and September of last year, while the 2021 survey went out from July to September.

State of play: The Wall Street Journal, reporting on the data, suggested the remote era was fading away.

  • But before the pandemic, only about 5% of workers were remote, according to data from Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford economics professor who's been tracking the trend for years.

What to watch: How much farther the lines on the chart above fall this year. Some high-profile companies really want workers in offices — and any softness in the economy or uncertainty in the job market gives executives far more leverage to get them there.

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