Telecommuting Mixed Results in 2008

The 2008 “work from home” numbers from the American Community Survey (U.S. Census Bureau) are in. They show a slight increase in the advance of telecommuting, but the gains are strictly limited to the government and non-profit sectors.

The decline in corporate telecommuting as the result of the recession was predicted by many. The theory, which appears to have been proven correct, was that employers would want their people near them in times of crisis. Likewise, it was suggested that telecommuting employees would choose to return to the office for fear that being out of sight put them at higher risk for being laid off.

Here are some details about the changes in the work at home population from 2007 to 2008:

5.9 million people worked from home most of the time in 2008 (up from 5.7 million in 2007) representing 4.1% of the overall population (versus 4.08% in 2007). Among them:

  • 41.26% (2.43 million) were private sector employees (not including self-employed)
  • 6.66% (.39 million) were government workers
  • 51.21% (3.02 million) were self-employed
  • .87% (51 thousand) were unpaid family workers.

Unfortunately, telecommuting or home-based work among private for-profit employees, the self-employed, and unpaid family workers actually declined in numbers.

2008 Percentage Change in People Who Reported They Worked at Home Most of the Time:

Private Workers: down 17.76%

For Profit Private Workers: down 20.3%

Non-Profit Private Workers: down 10.35%

Government Workers: up 12%

Local Government Workers: up 17.5%

State Government Workers: up 13.8%

Federal Government Workers: up 7.2%

Self-Employed Business Owners: down 3%

Incorporated: up 4.2%

Unincorporated: down 5.7%

Unpaid Family Workers: down 40.8%

Over the entire population (not just the work at home portion), the smallest of businesses, self-employed unincorporated operators, appear to have suffered disproportionately in the recession. While the total eligible workforce increased 3.4% year over year, self-employed and unpaid family workers declined 2.4% and 24.7% respectively. Unincorporated small businesses declined more than those that were incorporated (down 2.5% and 1% respectively).

For more details about the work at home population, visit our Telework Research Network: Telecommuting Statistics Page.

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