Oct 17, 2023 - Economy

WFH rates lowest since pandemic, federal data finds

Illustration of a coffee mug being attacked by cursors.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The rate of remote work in U.S. households has hit its lowest point since the pandemic started, data from the latest U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey reveals.

Why it matters: The decline in remote work amid a post-COVID environment reveals how the push by some companies to get more people into the office is starting to bear fruit.

By the numbers: About 26% of U.S. households said they had someone in their home who worked remotely at least one day per week, according to the most recent estimates from the survey, taken between Sept. 20 and Oct. 2.

  • But in early 2021, that rate hit a peak at 37%, per Bloomberg.

Across states, the percentage of remote workers varies significantly.

  • Colorado, Maryland, Utah, Massachusetts and Minnesota had the top five highest work-from-home rates, according to recent data via Bloomberg.
  • Meanwhile, Arkansas, North Dakota, Alabama, Mississippi and Wyoming had the top five lowest work-from-home rates.
  • The number of states with remote work rates over 33% dropped from 31 plus Washington, D.C., in the middle of the pandemic, to seven plus D.C., according to Bloomberg.

Zoom out: Though the work-from-home rate has fallen from 2021 levels, it is still higher than before the pandemic began.

  • In 2019, the number of people primarily working from home stood at 5.7%, or about 9 million people, per Census data. That percentage more than tripled from 2019 to 2021, at 17.9%, or 27.6 million people.

The return-to-office push among companies has also raised concerns about flexibility in the workspace.

  • For instance, the gap in workforce participation between men and women reached a record low, per Bureau of Labor Statistics data from earlier this year.
  • Hybrid work schedules enabled a record number of women with young children to enter or remain in the workforce, according to Axios' markets correspondent Emily Peck.

Go deeper: For some, flexible work is almost as important as pay

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