September 4, 2020 by Luke Mason
Understatement of the (very long) year: remote work is on the rise. What we mean is that by the third week of August, job postings for remote positions were a whopping 106% above pre-COVID levels. As businesses consolidate or shutter their office buildings and leave major urban centers, this could drastically change the US economy—but how much?
In this post, we will explore the growth of remote work in US job postings, as well as the industries and occupations that published the most postings last month.
Before looking at job postings for remote work, let’s see the big picture. By the third week of August, US job postings (for remote and non-remote positions) were 18% above the January/February average. This climb indicates that employers are indeed trying to hire. However, the rebound is also counteracted by a fresh wave of lay-offs which made thousands of job reductions permanent.
MGM Resorts just announced to furloughed employees that they won’t be coming back. Salesforce also notified that 1,000 workers will lose their jobs later this year. And if American Airlines and United Airlines don’t get receive more federal support, 53,000 workers could be affected by late September.
So even while some companies are hiring madly, others are laying off. It’s a mixed bag.
Remote work continues to surge. In mid-March, job postings for remote positions shot up 160% over pre-COVID numbers, and in August were 106% above the same. Companies like Amazon, Twitter, Capital One, Microsoft, and Salesforce dominate the hiring scene for remote work.
Note that this data includes only new job postings that specifically advertise jobs as remote. There are many thousands of job postings that don’t specify “work from home,” but that companies nevertheless end up filling with remote employees. So remote jobs have grown even faster than the following chart indicates.
Note also that these numbers include new job postings. They do not reflect current positions that suddenly went remote as millions of Americans worked from home during COVID shutdowns. In other words, more and more businesses are creating positions that are designed to be remote, and they are hiring an increasing number of brand new employees for those positions.
In doing so, employers are genuinely innovating their business as they discover that employees can get the job done without being in the office, or even in the same state. A new study discovered that before COVID, an estimated 3% of all jobs could be conducted remotely, while after COVID, up to 40% of all jobs can be performed from home.
And so a whole new category of employment emerges: permanently remote positions. Many companies may choose to continue remote work for good. For example, a March 30 survey by Gartner Research discovered that 74% of CEO and finance leaders plan to move 5% of their on-site workforce to long-term remote work. And a Gallup poll found that 59% of employees prefer to continue the virtual office experience, even after the rest of the economy opens up.
Remote work’s rise could mean the fall—or at least the “seismic downsizing”—of the $2.5-trillion white-collar office market. Tech companies across the country are letting leases expire and consolidating offices. In San Francisco, rents are tumbling, and Pinterest just canceled its lease on its giant, not-yet-constructed office building. In Manhattan, offices remain vacant. Workers are fleeing big metro areas like Seattle for other, less expensive options like Vegas, Austin, and Boise. Cities could soon be dotted with the empty carcasses of office buildings and shopping malls.
A permanent shift to remote work will also impact the business ecosystem centering on white-collar workers: everything from airlines to coffee shops to sartorial services. Industry insiders estimate that 10-15% of the business-travel market is gone forever. Chains like Starbucks and MacDonald’s, developed based on consumers’ commuting patterns, are losing sales. Starbucks itself plans to shutter 400 restaurants in the US. Workwear destinations are among many retailers in hot water. J. Crew and Ascena Retail (operator Ann Taylor, LOFT, and others) filed for bankruptcy, and Brooks Brothers sold itself (after also filing for bankruptcy).
Remote work, short-term or long-term, won’t just change the face of America’s work place. It will change the face of her cities, her economy, and her way of life. Time will tell how much.
Like we observed last month, the fastest-growing industries in terms of new job postings right now include Couriers & Messengers, Online Shopping, General Merchandise Stores, Food & Beverage Stores, and other familiar characters. Couriers & Messengers and Online Shopping, in particular, are exploding like a rocket that just doesn’t look like it’s coming back down. But today let’s take a look at a few industries you might not know about.
Ambulatory Healthcare Services has over 15,000 more job postings now than they did before COVID (+38% increase). Ambulatory care refers to outpatient care that you receive without being admitted to the hospital—including many “elective” surgeries and procedures that were banned from March through May in numerous states. Job postings accelerate as most states have lifted these restrictions and hospitals rush to address the backlog of surgeries.
Personal Services is also posting more jobs—especially hair salons. Job postings are up 40% over pre-COVID numbers as shaggy Americans, resembling so many hydrangeas, venture back to the barber.
Transit & Ground Passenger Transportation job postings are up 68% over pre-COVID levels. Most of this growth is prompted by school bus companies scrambling to find enough drivers for an uncertain school year. But filling those driver seats could get complicated if drivers feel nervous in such surroundings.
Now let’s talk about specific jobs that posted a lot in August. Most of these jobs assist with all the online shopping, trucking & delivery, and hair salons we just talked about.
Material Moving Workers are trying to keep up with the demand created by all that online shopping. New job postings have exploded, with 10,000 more postings in August than before COVID. That’s 157% growth over the January/February average! Companies hiring include Amazon, FedEx, and UPS, plus staffing companies like Randstadt, Aerotek, and Kelly.
Related to this are Material Recording, Scheduling, Dispatching, and Distributing Workers, who assist behind the scenes with all those packages. Amazon, Lowes, Walmart, and UPS are hiring stocking clerks.
Personal Appearance Workers (like hair stylists) are posting 64% more than they were before COVID.
Supervisors of Sales Workers – New job postings are up 32%, the only business occupation in the top 10. Businesses everywhere might be feeling the impact of COVID-19, but one thing they always need is reps to make more sales.
We will continue to publish our monthly observations on trends in job postings and the economy.