The labor market is no doubt tight: Job openings in July rose to record highs, the Labor Department’s monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover report found. The overall quits rate was unchanged at 2.7% for the month, but the quit rate for the private sector increased to 3.1% from 3.0%, matching the all-time high in 2001, according to ING.
Different dynamics are fueling this trend, Adam Ozimek, Upwork’s chief economist, told Yahoo Finance – primarily the ability to work remotely since the pandemic hit the U.S. in 2020.
Remote work has played a key role in driving up the quit rate among the higher-skilled part of the labor market, said Ozimek. “There are a lot of workers who simply don’t want to go back to the office,” he said. “That desire to stay remote is playing a part there.” According to Upwork’s Great Resignation report published in August, over a third of remote workers are not excited about returning to the office.
Remote work has driven migration across the country. Nearly 55% of remote workers are planning to move at least two hours away, according to Upwork. In the absence of in-person office requirements, more than half of remote workers – 52.5% – are planning to move to a house that’s less expensive than their current home.
For those planning such a move, remote work career prospects are a major factor, said Ozimek.
“Is there really a remote labor market out there?” Ozimek said. “Right now people aren’t sure what their remote work options are going to be, their employers aren’t necessarily offering firm guidance on how remote they’ll be able to be in the future, and then also people are looking to what are the other career options that I have where I can stay remote if I want to leave this employer.”
According to a Jefferies report published in June, the suburbs directly outside large metro areas saw the most gains in migration during the pandemic as people moved out of major cities such as New York, Dallas, and Seattle.
“We’ve seen a lot of people moving outside of major cities, so the outskirts of New York City, San Francisco,” said Ozimek. “They’re going from living in the city to living outside the city because they think they may need to commute to the office a few days a week. That’s where we’ve seen most of the migration now.”
Given the option, many remote workers would prefer to move even farther away from their offices. According to Upwork, 41.5% of remote workers are considering moving more than 4 hours away from their current location.
Fourteen to 23 million Americans are planning to move because of the flexibility that remote work affords them, according to Upwork. If they go through with it, rural economies stand to benefit the most, Ozimek said.
“This is a reversal of a trend we’ve seen for a few decades where, across the country, more skilled people have tended to flock to a handful of superstar cities and that’s been bad for the economies that they leave behind,” said Ozimek. “It leaves those economies with weaker housing markets, fewer skilled individuals, fewer entrepreneurs and I think remote work has the chance to sort of equalize things a little bit more.”
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