Homework economy slows, jobs report finds

  • The June jobs report found less than 14% of workers were far away.
  • That’s down from the 35% of people who worked from home in May.
  • Although remote working is declining, many people still want the option of staying at home.

The number of people with jobs may have increased in June, but remote working has declined, suggesting a possible end to what has become the norm for working during the pandemic.

The June jobs report went above and beyond, adding 850,000 payrolls accompanied by higher wages, mostly in the leisure and hospitality sectors. But beyond job growth, another notable data point in the report is the transition from remote work to in-person work. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 35% of people were working from home in May 2020, and by June the percentage had been cut by more than half, with just 14% of people working remotely.

Big companies are starting to demand that workers return to work in the coming months. For example, Apple requires most workers to return to the office in September, and Goldman Sachs requires workers to come to the office since June 14. But given the pressure to return to work in person, many companies are still struggling to hire. As Insider has pointed out, higher wages might be the answer to alleviating the labor shortage.

The chief economist of the recruitment site Indeed, Jed Kolko, Noted on Twitter that some very distant industries, like technology and software, have returned to near levels before the work-from-home pandemic. Others that are traditionally in person, like hospitality, are still far from returning to basic levels.

Additionally, Kolko shared a graphic on Twitter which shows that remote working may not continue to be a popular choice for some professions. For example, Kolko noted that 81% of workers in education, training and library occupations were working from home due to the May 2020 pandemic. However, the share of workers in this occupation working from home was much smaller in June 2021, at 19%.

The following graph shows some occupations where at least 30% reported working from home in May, the first month the Bureau of Labor Statistics started asking this question, and how that compares in June 2021:

Even if remote working declines, as the Jobs report revealed, what was once a high industry in person will likely never return to fully in-person work. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said his employees could work from home forever if they preferred that option, and that there are bigger issues to be addressed. For example, as Insider’s Dominic-Madori Davis reported, some black women feel more secure working from home, where they can avoid some instances of racism and sexism in the workplace.

A Morning Consult survey also found that 39% of workers would consider quitting if their bosses were not flexible about working from home, suggesting a return to pre-pandemic office work levels is unlikely.

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