Remote work thrived again in 2022, new data show, with D.C. a top hub


The work-from-home trend has persisted even as many large urban areas saw rebounds in population after emptying out during the pandemic.

Even as many of America’s workers returned to the office, the share of those working from home last year remained well above what it was before the coronavirus pandemic, census data released Thursday show, reflecting a lasting change that is upending downtown districts, companies and commuting patterns.

D.C. and the Washington metro area showed some of the highest rates in the nation. Just over a third of District residents (33.8 percent) worked from home in 2022, down from 48.3 percent the year before, when the city topped the list, according to the American Community Survey, conducted annually by the Census Bureau. Only Seattle had a higher share of remote workers last year among cities, at 36 percent.

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Among metropolitan regions, the Washington area ranks fourth in the country, with just over a quarter (25.4 percent) of workers remote last year, down from 33.1 percent the previous year. That ranks it behind the Austin, San Francisco and Raleigh metro regions and ties it with Seattle’s, according to an analysis of the data by Brookings Institution senior demographer William Frey.

Nationally, the 2022 remote work rate was 15.2 percent, down from 17.9 percent the previous year. In 2019, before the pandemic began, just 5.7 percent of the nation’s workers worked remotely and only 6.3 percent in the Washington metro area did so.

The pandemic shutdown may have led to new, and lasting, ways of thinking about work, Frey said.

“While the pandemic forced an abrupt change toward working from home, it also led to the development of new telecommuting technologies and strategies that could eliminate the need for five-day-a-week office work for many Americans,” he said.

The work-from-home trend has persisted even as many large urban areas saw rebounds in population after emptying out during the pandemic.

Census data released this year showed that 11 of the country’s 15 largest metro areas gained residents or lost fewer people compared with the previous year, including the Washington metro area, New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle.

The regions topping the list for remote work are hubs for high-tech industries in which working remotely is possible. The Washington metro area’s high rate probably is due to high populations both of tech workers and government employees who have been able to work remotely, Frey said.

The new census data also reflect a rebound in immigration, which had fallen to record lows during the Trump administration and the pandemic. The new data show an increase of 912,074 foreign-born residents last year, up from an annual average of 186,000 in the four years prior.

Census data released in June had showed a post-pandemic population rebound driven largely by immigration, which nearly tripled last year compared with the year before, according to an analysis by Frey. Latinos and Asians accounted for more than two-thirds of the arrivals.