- Remote job postings have doubled during the pandemic and continue to rise.
- Tech jobs are among the likeliest to be remote, but the remote share of postings increased most in therapy, finance, and law.
- During the pandemic, job postings rebounded first in sectors where work generally can’t be done remotely, like driving and manufacturing.
The rise of remote work has been one of the most dramatic effects of the pandemic — and might be one of its most long-lasting. Remote work has the potential to boost productivity and flexibility. For job seekers, it expands opportunities, and for recruiters, it enlarges candidate pools. At the same time though, it could aggravate labor market inequities and reduce productivity in some cases.
Last spring, at the worst of the pandemic, it looked like nearly everyone who could work from home was doing so. A full 35% of employed people were working from home because of coronavirus in May, very close to an academic estimate that 37% of jobs were in occupations that could be performed remotely. In February 2021, the share working remotely fell to 23% as some people returned to workplaces.
One sign that remote work will outlive the pandemic is that job postings on Indeed increasingly include “remote work,” “working from home,” and similar terms. Postings are more than twice as likely to mention remote work now as before the pandemic. While remote work remains unfeasible in many areas, like food service and beauty & wellness, it has increased dramatically in sectors where it had been rare, like therapy, finance, and law.
Job postings now twice as likely to mention remote work than before pandemic
During the pandemic, the share of job postings mentioning “remote work,” “working from home,” or related terms more than doubled (see Methodology). In February 2021, 6.9% of Indeed US job postings were remote versus 2.9% in January 2020. A change in Indeed’s job-posting form in April 2020 made it easier for employers to mark a job as remote. Still, we estimate that this change accounted for just one-fifth of the overall increase in the remote job postings share.
Most striking is that the remote job postings share has continued to rise even as many workers have returned to the office. At-home work fell moderately to 23% of employed workers in February 2021 from 35% in May 2020, when the US Current Population Survey first asked about remote work. But the share of Indeed job postings indicating remote work has climbed steadily. In fact, the increase in remote work accelerated in early 2021 even after accounting for the April 2020 change in our job posting form.
Job seekers searching for remote work
Remote work job postings have risen more steadily than job seeker searches for remote positions. People searching for work on Indeed are roughly twice as likely to search for remote jobs now than before the pandemic. Searches for remote work spiked when much of the economy shut down and job postings plunged in late March 2020. The share of job searches for remote work remained elevated in February 2021, but below its peak in November 2020 and below the spring 2020 spike.
Remote work is for the lucky minority
Remote work is widespread in some sectors, but still almost non-existent in others. In the second half of 2020, more than 20% of tech job postings, including lower-paid operations & helpdesk jobs and higher-paid software development jobs, mentioned remote work. But less than 1% of beauty & wellness and food preparation jobs did so.
In nearly all sectors, more job postings mentioned remote work in the second half of 2020 than in the second half of 2019. The sectors with the highest share of remote job postings during the pandemic were those with the highest share before the pandemic.
But a few sectors saw especially large increases in the share of postings citing remote work. Therapy, legal, finance, and education postings were more than three times as likely to mention remote work in 2020 than in 2019. These are all sectors where remote work was feasible but, relative to tech, much rarer before the pandemic.
Sectors with higher shares of job postings tend to pay more. There are some exceptions — physicians and engineers for instance have high salaries, but rarely work remotely. But, in general, remote work is much more widespread among workers with higher incomes and more education. Government surveys confirm that more than one third of workers with a bachelor’s or graduate degree are working from home because of the pandemic compared with less than 10% of workers with a high school degree or less.
More remote work, but job postings in low work-from-home sectors rise more
During the pandemic, hiring has been skewed toward jobs that can’t be done remotely. Job postings in low work-from-home sectors recovered quickly, rising above the pre-pandemic baseline by early August. Many of these low work-from-home sectors, like driving, warehouse, and retail, support the stay-at-home economy, providing services and delivering goods to people working remotely.
In addition, initial layoffs were concentrated in low work-from-home sectors like hospitality & tourism. Even now, employment is down most in low work-from-home industries. The rebound reflects that much hiring during the pandemic has been to refill jobs in sectors that shut down and then reopened.
Most recently, job postings have increased in high work-from-home sectors like tech and finance. But job postings remain highest relative to the pre-pandemic baseline in lower work-from-home sectors.
The economy-wide trend in remote work postings reflects both changes in the occupational mix and in remote-work share within each occupation. The quicker rebound in job postings in low-remote-work sectors by itself has held back the national increase in remote work postings. But adjusting for these sectoral shifts by keeping the job mix constant, the growth in remote work postings is almost half a percentage point larger than the overall trend suggests.
It’s uncertain to what extent remote work will persist after the pandemic. But if job postings are a guide, employers are increasingly open to remote work, even as some employees return to the workplace.
We identify job postings as open to remote work if the job title or description includes terms like “remote work,” “telecommute,” “work from home,” or similar terms, or if the location is explicitly listed as remote. These postings include both permanently and temporarily remote jobs, though employers often don’t specify.
Occupational sectors are grouped into low (0-2%), medium (2-5%), and high (5%+) remote based on the share of job postings tagged remote in the second half of 2019, before the pandemic.
The correlation across occupational sectors between remote share and median salary is 0.5, weighted by occupational postings.
The US Current Population Survey reports the share of employed persons “who teleworked or worked at home for pay at any time in the last 4 weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic.”