The number of Americans who 'super commute' is on the rise

The number of Americans who “super commute” (travel 90 minutes or more to work each day, each way) is on the rise.

According to county-level data compiled by from 2005 to 2017, the number of "super commuters" grew by 32%. That is more than triple the 9% growth rate for those with commutes shorter than 90 minutes.

The survey found that people with the longest commutes live in coastal metro areas such as New York City or San Francisco. However, Apartment List housing economist Chris Salviati told Yahoo Finance that there are some patches in more rural parts of the country.

Share of workforce that 'super commutes'
Share of workforce that 'super commutes'

"The tri-state area where Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky converge, which is the foremost regions for coal mining in the country, I think what you see there is an industry where a lot of those coal mines shut down in recent years,” he said. "What we see there is that the folks who are still employed in that industry are having to drive further and further to get to the active job sites because there are so few opportunities left."

This is the inverse of what is going on in the New York and San Francisco metro areas, Salviati said.

"In places like New York and San Francisco, where generally super commuting tends to be a symptom of really rapid economic growth — where there’s tons of jobs being added, but there's not enough new housing. And so housing costs get really expensive, and folks get pushed out to the peripheries of the metro,” he explained. “In the Midwest region, what you're seeing is really almost the opposite, where it's kind of a region that's seeing a long term decline economically. So folks are driving further and further to get to the opportunities that are left."

occupations with the longest commute times
Occupations with the longest commute times. Illustration by David Foster

According to the study, blue-collar professions such as construction or mining have a higher share of people who commute 90 minutes or more each way. White-collar professions, including social services and education, have some of the shortest work commutes.

Within the super commuting population, there are a select few professions are on the extreme end of the spectrum. Salviati says offshore drillers give a new meaning to the definition of a super commute since it includes not only driving to a helipad but the helicopter ride to the rig.

“It's one of those sorts of jobs where you’re on for your a couple of weeks on the job site full time and then you’re off for a couple of weeks back at home ... And so that really puts a whole new meaning on the kind of super commuting concept, but definitely a very extreme form of commuting there.”

Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.

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