Bay Watch – Remote Work Update

Bay Watch: A Weekly Look into the Bay Area Economy

September 22nd, 2023

New 2022 data show remote work in the Bay Area is here to stay

New data released last week from the U.S. Census Bureau show that 25% of Bay Area workers (aged 16+) primarily worked from home in 2022, a 8 percentage point decrease from a record level high of 33% in 2021. By comparison, only 17% of California and 15% of the nation primarily worked from home in 2022. The data come from the 2022 American Community Survey, an annual survey of 3.5 million households across the nation and reflect home locations, not work locations, of residents who worked from home as their primary form of commuting. In 2019, 260,000 residents in the Bay Area worked primarily from home, in 2021, that number skyrocketed to 1.2 million, a nearly 5 fold increase. By 2022, the number reduced to 938,000, as many office workers were asked to return to the workplace on a regular basis.

Still, these data indicate that remote work is here to stay for a large chunk of Bay Area workers, a major shift in a region where less than 10% of people primarily worked from home pre-pandemic. These new data also corroborate the Bay Area Council’s Return to Office survey, a survey of 200 employers across the region administered bi-monthly since April 2021. Each survey asks employers what percentage of their workforce they predict will be fully remote post pandemic, and for 15 months in a row, the results have hovered around 25%, closely matching new data from the Census. Meanwhile, public transit ridership continues to lag behind: only 5.5% of workers commute by transit as their primary form of transportation, up a meager 2 percentage points since 2021, and down 8 percentage point since 2019.

Bay Area residents are more likely to work from home than other parts of the state

On a municipal level, Bay Area cities had much higher shares of remote work than cities in Southern California or the Central Valley. Due to the prevalence of tech jobs in the Bay Area and a consequently higher remote work eligibility, 9 of the top 10 cities with the largest remote work shares were in one of five major Bay Area counties. On the flip side, big cities in California’s Central Valley such as Fresno and Bakersfield saw less than 10% of residents primarily working from home, illustrating a massive socioeconomic divide between coastal high-tech cities and the suburbs that surround them, and central in-land cities with higher shares of in-person working class jobs.