Lori Black threw out dozens of job applications with one goal: to land a work-from-home job.
But four months later, his search begins to seem impossible. Positions are rare and rejections are numerous.
“It’s been very trying, I keep posting the resume and sometimes I feel so discouraged,” said Black, 56, who lives near York, Pennsylvania. “Now that companies are saying ‘You need to get back to work,’ the job market for work-from-home positions has become very competitive.”
Nearly three years into a pandemic that reshaped workplace norms and placed the balance of power in the hands of employees, the tides are changing again. The job market — while still hot — is slowing, and many Americans who used to work from home are being called back into the office.
This has led to a tug of war between what employees want and what employers are willing to give them. Wage increases are plateauing, signing bonuses are cooling, and fewer companies are allowing people to work from home than they did just a few months ago.
Demand for remote jobs remains near historic highs, even as companies cancel telecommuting positions. Fifty percent of applications submitted on LinkedIn are for work-from-home positions, which account for just 15% of job postings, according to a recent report from the jobs site.
“It’s the ‘great remote work mismatch,'” said Rand Ghayad, head of global economics and labor markets at LinkedIn, who authored the recent report. “In the past, labor mismatches were about skills. Now we’re seeing a different kind of mismatch, where workers are looking for jobs that offer certain attributes — like the ability to work remotely — that employers aren’t willing to offer.
While there are nearly two job openings for every candidate when it comes to on-site work, the reverse is true for remote jobs: there are two active candidates for every work-from-home job available. on LinkedIn. This means that the gap between the demand for jobs and the supply of workers for on-site positions is four times greater than for remote work, according to Ghayad.
Other job sites report similar trends. At Indeed, for example, remote job postings have slowed in recent months, even in tech-heavy fields like software development. Monster.com, meanwhile, saw a 21% increase in the number of job seekers looking to work from home between September and October, even as remote job postings fell by 6. %.
The reduction in remote work policies is one of the first and most visible signs of a changing labor market. The Federal Reserve aggressively raised interest rates in hopes of slowing the economy enough to calm inflation. Although the jobless rate, at 3.7%, remains near all-time lows, Fed officials have said they expect the figure to rise to 4.4% next year, which would result in over a million lost jobs.
There are some signs that it’s getting harder and harder to get a job. Candidates on LinkedIn are applying for an average of 22% more jobs than a year ago, according to a November report from the company.
For now, the share of available remote jobs tends to vary widely by industry. Work-from-home opportunities in sectors including education, tourism, sports and agriculture have declined markedly since last year, as schools, gyms and other establishments reopened, data shows. from ZipRecruiter. In other areas, such as manufacturing, finance and insurance, remote job listings have plateaued in recent months as companies and employees navigate broader shifts in the economy.
Even so, Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter, said it will be difficult for many employers to achieve pre-pandemic office occupancy rates, even if they want to.
“I think it’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle on this one,” she said. “Once you’ve hired a remote employee who lives elsewhere – as many companies have done – it’s very difficult to insist that people who live close to the office come in all the time.
In many industries, the kind of longer-term transition to remote working, accompanied by investments in technology and divestments in commercial real estate, is still underway. »
The coronavirus pandemic abruptly and drastically reshaped the workplace at the start of 2020, forcing millions of Americans to work from home in a jiffy. For many, this was their first time working remotely, and they quickly found that working from home offered increased flexibility and a healthier work-life balance. About 18% of the workforce — or 28 million Americans — worked from home last year, up from 6% before the pandemic, according to Census Bureau data.
Labor experts and economists say remote work has also opened up new opportunities for people who have traditionally been pushed out of the labor market, including working parents, as well as people with disabilities or who have care tasks. care.
Black, the Pennsylvania job seeker, quit her job as an administrative assistant seven years ago to care for sick family members. But after recently watching her stepson work as a computer engineer from home, she said it occurred to her that she could do something like this too, while still keeping busy. of his sister-in-law. She applied for customer service and administrative positions, with little luck.
“They keep saying there are all these jobs there,” she said. “But if you want something you can do from home, there aren’t many options.”
A growing number of tech, banking and retail companies have called workers back to the office in recent weeks. Elon Musk quickly ordered all Twitter employees to show up in person after taking over the social media platform in late October. (He has since backtracked, saying “exceptional” employees can continue to work remotely.)
Meanwhile, US Bancorp this month began asking employees at companies to start coming in three days a week.
“While performance is still strong, we are seeing other things erode — like collaboration, engagement, and how we demonstrate our culture as One US Bank,” Chief Executive Andy Cecere wrote in a note to employees. “Being in the office won’t solve this all at once, but it can and will help.”
Low-wage workers have traditionally been excluded from remote opportunities. According to ZipRecruiter’s Pollak, women and minorities tend to place the highest value on remote work, although they tend to work in industries such as nursing, teaching, retail and manufacturing. housekeeping, where such opportunities are generally rare.
As a result, economists say low-wage workers who want to work from home often have limited options and may be less likely to receive pay raises and other benefits than their on-site counterparts.
Demand for hourly remote work has been strong at Liveops, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based company that hires contractors for customer service jobs at national retailers, insurers and healthcare companies. Applications from people applying on their own, and not because of an online ad, are up 67% from a year ago, according to chief executive Greg Hanover.
“We’re seeing pretty significant growth,” he said. “People want to work on their own terms. They want flexibility.
With remote jobs becoming less available, those who have them say they are inclined to keep them. In St. Louis, Ian Schrauth makes about 30 cents a minute answering calls from his home for a health care company. He took the job remotely as an independent contractor in April 2020, shortly after losing his job as an in-person salesperson at Sprint.
Schrauth hasn’t gotten a raise since taking the job nearly three years ago, but said he’s been saving money on gas by not having to commute.
“Now that I’ve started working remotely, that’s definitely my favorite,” said Schrauth, 25, who also works part-time at a Walmart store. “If I want to work in pajamas, I can. If I have a doctor’s appointment, I can bypass that. There is a lot more flexibility.