Sep 16, 2022 - Business

Seattle ranks No. 2 nationally for remote workers

U.S. cities with greatest share of people working primarily from home in 2021
Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

Seattle has embraced remote work more than almost any other city in the country, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Driving the news: The share of workers in Seattle who said they primarily worked from home in 2021 — 46.8% — was almost triple the national average of 17.9%, per the latest American Community Survey, which came out this week.

  • Among cities of more than 300,000 residents, only Washington, D.C. led Seattle when it came to the percentage of employees who said they mainly worked from home.

Why it matters: Remote work transformed Seattle more than most places, making a return to pre-pandemic norms seem even less likely here in the Emerald City.

  • In 2019, only 7.9% of Seattle workers said they usually worked from home. That figure increased nearly sixfold during the pandemic.

State of play: Many of the region's large employers have been reluctant to enact strict return-to-office policies.

  • Meanwhile, Seattle's downtown has been slower to recover than some other city centers — although the Downtown Seattle Association says worker foot traffic is steadily increasing.

What they're saying: Michael Burrows, statistician in the Census Bureau's Journey-to-Work and Migration Statistics Branch, said in a news release that "the pandemic has very strongly impacted the commuting landscape in the United States."

  • While the nationwide figures lag Seattle's, the number of U.S. employees who primarily work from home nevertheless tripled over two years.

Zoom in: Gina Cole, spokesperson for Zillow, said the company decided two years ago that remote working was the way of the future, in part because of its popularity with workers. The online real estate marketplace started in Seattle.

  • "I don't think work will be like it was in 2019 ever again," Cole told Axios Seattle on Thursday. "I don't think the world is that way anymore … There's just really no putting that toothpaste back in the tube."

What we're watching: What will become of all those shiny downtown office towers — particularly since Amazon has yet to set a companywide mandate for employees to return to the office.


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