Home-based workforce diversified during pandemic, reports say

Simeon Davidov

The U.S. Census Bureau unveiled new employment trends after it released data from a survey conducted with people working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More people shifted to remote work due to the pandemic. In an April 6 report titled “Home-Based Workers and the COVID-19 Pandemic,” the agency used data from its American Community Survey and reported several changes among employees working from home, including that the workforce became more diverse, better educated and younger between 2019 and 2021. 

“If only temporarily, the COVID-19 pandemic generated a massive shift in the way people in the United States related to their workplace location,” the bureau said in the report. “With the centrality of work and commuting in American life, the widespread adoption of home-based work was a defining feature of the pandemic era.”

According to a survey conducted by Owl Labs and Global Workplace Analytics, 69% of employees in the United States worked remotely during 2020, the height of the pandemic. The census’ report said that the number of workers whose operations are based at home in 2021 more than tripled since 2019, increasing from 9 million employees to 28 million employees. 

The report said that workforce demographics have been significantly impacted by this rise in remote work, with younger, better-educated workers and those from diverse ethnic backgrounds more inclined to do so.

Additionally, the data showed that the pandemic may have altered the number of people in many demographic groups, including age and ethnicity.

According to the data, younger workers were more inclined to work remotely during the pandemic.

The percentage of people working from home and between ages 25 and 34 rose from 16.4% in 2019 to 23.1% in 2021. For people between ages 16 and 24, the number rose from 6.2% to 6.8%.

The report also discovered that workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher were more likely to work remotely than those with an associate degree or equivalency, a high school degree or no degree.

White employees made up a majority of the home-based workforce at 66.8% during 2021.

The industries with the highest percentage of remote workers also changed during the pandemic.

According to the census bureau, 42% of employees in the information industry were home-based workers. Meanwhile, home-based workers made up 38.4% of the finance, insurance and real estate sectors and 36.5% of the professional, scientific, management and social assistance sectors.

On income, the report said that less than a year into the pandemic, data from the bureau’s Household Pulse Survey “found that almost three-quarters of workers in households earning more than $200,000 per year switched to working from home,” while workers with an income under $25,000 made up 13% of those working from home.

The census bureau also gave an in-depth look at the prevalence of remote work in regions of the United States.

The study demonstrates that the West and Northeast had higher rates of employees working remote than in the Midwest and the South. The report also said different geographic limitations, such as the community type, state and metropolitan areas, affected employees’ abilities to work from home.

The increase of employees working remotely in New York led to Manhattan losing $12 billion in potential revenue with less office workers spending money at local businesses and services. City officials such as New York City Mayor Eric Adams have pushed to resume in-person operations.

Since the report did not include data from 2022, it does not consider changes made since pandemic-related restrictions were lifted. But employers may take note of this development and modify their hiring procedures and guidelines to account for the evolving nature of the workforce. The economic effects on sectors that depend on in-person activity must also be considered as the popularity of remote labor increases.