Sep 16, 2023 - Economy

Remote work thrives in the biggest and fastest-growing parts of the U.S.

Data: Census Bureau; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios
Data: Census Bureau; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

Workers in America's biggest, most competitive cities aren't giving up the flexibility and savings — in both time and gas money — of working from home.

By the numbers: Overall, 15% of the U.S. worked from home last year, according to new Census figures released last week — but the numbers are much higher on both the East and West coasts, and in other large metro areas.

  • Boulder, Colorado, had the highest share of remote workers of any metro area last year, at 32%. Denver wasn't far behind.
  • San Francisco and San Jose were both in the top 10. Their main rival for tech jobs, Austin, Texas, was even higher.
  • Just over 25% of the workforce in the Washington, D.C., metro area is remote — the 6th highest rate of any city, and higher than any state.

The other side: Mississippi has the lowest share of remote workers in the U.S., at just 5.5%, and the Southeast generally is well below the national average.

  • Even so, every state has more remote workers now than in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
  • And even after two years, the trend line is barely moving. Nationwide, the share of people working from home declined by less than 3 percentage points between 2021 and 2022, according to the Census figures.

What we're watching: The work-from-home revolution is most entrenched in big cities with large concentrations of office buildings, and downtown economies that survived because of those office buildings being full.

  • Any number of large employers, from big banks in New York all the way up to the federal government, have tried to get their employees back to the office. For the most part, they haven't been very successful.
  • The solution in these cities is more likely to come from ambitious redevelopment projects — converting office towers into residential buildings and central business districts into mixed-use neighborhoods.
  • That work is complex, difficult and extremely expensive, but it's already underway in several cities.
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