Demand for Remote Work Opportunities Far Outstrips Supply

A new ZipRecruiter survey of more than 2,500 job seekers suggests that the Covid-19 pandemic has created a stark mismatch between the types of jobs Americans are looking for and those that are available. 60% of respondents said they would prefer to find a job where they can work from home. Yet only around 9% of vacancies advertised on the ZipRecruiter platform in December, 2020 and January, 2021 provided that opportunity. 

Exacerbating the imbalance, some groups of workers that are more likely to value remote work—such as women and African Americans—are also heavily underrepresented in several of the industries where the arrangement is most prevalent. 

The Pandemic Induced a Major Shift to Remote Work 

The coronavirus pandemic created significant barriers to working for many Americans. It increased the health risks associated with certain occupations and with transportation modes used for commuting to work. The crisis also caused schools and daycares to close, forcing many parents to stay home to care for children. Additionally, Covid-19  depleted job opportunities in some lines of work , such as the performing arts, to such a degree that many people had  to switch industries to find employment. As a result, almost 8 million Americans left the labor force between February and April, 2020, and—as of  January, 2021—4.3 million have yet to return. 

Companies rushed to adapt. In industries where remote work  was possible, many companies allowed or required existing employees to work from home, and converted vacant positions for which they were recruiting into remote roles. The share of job postings on the ZipRecruiter platform explicitly offering workers the opportunity to work from home, work from anywhere, telework, or work remotely, rose five-fold over the course of the year. 

Remote work opportunities spiked during the April and December Covid outbreaks, but also grew steadily during the fall as companies adapted to the new normal. At the same time, the share of job postings offering schedule flexibility also rose substantially.

Work-From-Home Opportunities Are in High Demand  

Despite the dramatic increase in remote work, demand for remote opportunities still far outstrips supply. 60% of respondents said that they would prefer to find a job now where they can work from home. Even after the pandemic is over, 46% said they anticipate wanting a job where they can work from home. 

Preference for remote work was lowest among the youngest and oldest cohorts, but highest among respondents aged 25 to 54 who are more likely to have young or school-age children. Preference for remote work is also positively associated with educational attainment. The most highly educated workers are both more likely to say they prefer remote work and to have access to the most remote work opportunities. While job seeker preferences and labor market conditions are aligned along some dimensions, like education, there is considerable misalignment along others.  

More Women and African Americans Want Remote Work, but They Are Underrepresented in Industries Where It Is Common

Women were more likely than men to say they would prefer remote work, both now (69% versus 50%) and after the pandemic (52% versus 39%). Yet remote work opportunities are often most prevalent in industries where women are underrepresented, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on employment by industry. For example, the sector with the largest number of remote job opportunities on ZipRecruiter is the business sector, where women make up just 41.4% of employees.

While the second-largest source of remote jobs is the financial services sector, where BLS data show there is greater gender parity and women account for 51.9% of payrolls, the third-largest is the technology sector, where women remain heavily underrepresented. For example, women only hold 27% of jobs in computer systems design and related services. And while many technology companies employ women in warehousing, shopper, delivery, and call center roles that are typically done in person, the tech and leadership roles that can be done from home are often predominantly held by men.

Black/African American respondents were also more likely than whites or Hispanics to say that they would prefer to find work-from-home positions now (61% versus 58% and 53%) and after the pandemic (48% versus 43% and 40%). And yet while Blacks make up 12.1% of the workforce, they are only 9.9% of professional and business service employees, 10.5% of financial services employees, and 7.8% of tech fields, like computer systems design and related services, again according to BLS data.

Methodology

The results are based on a desktop and mobile online survey of 2,569 active job seekers on ZipRecruiter. Active job seekers are defined as logged in registered users who visited ZipRecruiter’s job search site or actively used the ZipRecruiter job search mobile app between February 7 and February 12, 2021. 

Related Topics: ,

Julia Pollak

Written by

Julia Pollak is a labor economist at ZipRecruiter. She provides insights and analysis on current labor market trends and the future of work.

More Articles by Julia Pollak