Oct 19, 2023 - Economy

American workers savor quicker commutes than before COVID

Share of U.S. workers by commute time
Data: Census Bureau; Chart: Alice Feng/Axios

The share of workers with relatively speedy commutes has increased compared to pre-pandemic times, per a new Axios analysis of census data.

Why it matters: Shorter commutes are tied to better mental health, greater job satisfaction and a host of other personal benefits.

The big picture: Commutes under 30 minutes became more commonplace between 2019 and 2022, per the U.S. Census Bureau's latest American Community Survey, while those 30 minutes and longer became more rare.

By the numbers: 36.8% of U.S. workers had a commute of 15-29 minutes in 2022, up from 35.6% in 2019.

  • Another 26% had a commute of less than 15 minutes, up from 24.8%.
  • Combined, those groups represent approximately 85.5 million people.

Meanwhile, 20.9% of workers had a commute of 30-44 minutes in 2022, down from 21.2% in 2019.

  • 7.9% of workers had a commute of 45-59 minutes in 2022, down from 8.5%. And 8.5% of workers had a commute of an hour or longer, down from 9.8%.
  • Together, those groups represent about 50.8 million people.

Of note: These findings don't include employees who work from home, and thus have a commute time of zero — or maybe a minute or two, if you stop to pour a cup of coffee on your way to your home office setup.

  • Instead, the results are based on the approximately 136.2 million Americans ages 16 and older with non-WFH jobs in 2022.

Driving the news: There are a handful of potential factors at play here.

  • The "Great Reshuffling" led many Americans to move and/or find new jobs, and some of those who enjoyed the benefits of pandemic-era remote work decided to prioritize shorter commutes in favor of more personal or family time.

💬 Our thought bubble, via Alex: As a fully remote worker, there are times when I miss my NYC commute. It was often a good "buffer" between work and home, giving me time to throw on some music or a podcast and decompress.

  • But boy, I don't miss having to deal with day-ruining subway delays or line changes.

The bottom line: This data may not jive with your personal experience, as every city has different commuting and traffic realities — but in the broad sense, the post-pandemic trip to work is quicker than it used to be.

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