The COVID-19 pandemic forced many jobs -- and job seekers -- to become fully remote. Employers and employees have adapted to a remote setup more than a year later, with job seeker interest in remote opportunities steadily up since March 2020. But as pandemic restrictions ease and employers plan to reopen offices, will job seekers still demand remote opportunities?
Using U.S. job search data on Glassdoor in the U.S., we analyzed the share of job search activity for job seekers explicitly interested in remote jobs. From June 2019 to June 2021, the share of searches for remote positions grew by 360 percent. Even as the public health situation improved, job seeker interest in remote positions has grown and seems unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels, especially considering the steady growth in access to work-from-home even before the pandemic began.
Despite experiencing a dramatic increase in search activity, searches for remote positions remained a small percentage of overall job search activity compared to searches for in-person positions. In June 2021, only 3 percent of all job search activity was for remote positions. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 14.4 percent of workers worked from home in June 2021, which indicates that our data likely only captures some of a much larger interest for remote work as employees and employers amenable to remote work may not have explicitly indicated so.
Job search activity is useful for understanding the roles that job seekers are curious about while job applications can provide insight into career opportunities that people are actively pursuing. In June 2021, approximately one in every four remote job applications was for a tech role. Unsurprisingly, the Information Technology sector has been the top sector for remote job applications since June 2019. Business Services jobs including human resources and customer success roles were the second most popular in remote job applications.
During the pandemic, the increasing demand for socially-distanced health care services led the traditionally in-person sector to become the third most popular in remote job applications. Within the health care sector, psychiatric service roles have become more remote as people experienced mental health challenges during the pandemic lockdown, but needed to remain socially distanced.
Most Popular Sectors for Remote Job Applications in June 2021
In June 2021, job seekers who searched for remote positions on Glassdoor were most likely to search for the phrase “human resources”, making up 1.4 percent of all remote job searches. This was not the case in June 2019, during which the “project manager” phrase was most popular in remote searches. As expected, four of the top ten keywords were technical roles—jobs that can traditionally be done remotely. Other keywords from the top ten like “marketing” and “customer service representative” also describe jobs that can be done remotely.
Most Popular Keywords in Remote Job Searches in June 2021
Among the ten keywords that saw the fastest growth since June 2019, four were within human resources and two were accounting-related. While human resources and accounting are traditionally office-based jobs, both can easily transition to remote environments. Sales, marketing, and product roles in the cannabis industry also experienced rapid growth in remote search interest since June 2019, which reflects the growing attractiveness of the industry since the recent easing of cannabis restrictions in several states.
Fastest Remote Growth Keywords since June 2019
|Rank||Keywords with Most Growth||% of Searches that were Remote in June 2019||% of Searches that were Remote in June 2021||% Growth between June 2019 and June 2021|
|10||senior financial analyst||0.2%||5.0%||2055.8%|
Even though overall demand for remote positions remains high, many jobs are seeing a relative slowdown in interest in remote positions. Among the ten most popular keywords in remote job searches, many saw their shares of remote searches stall or even drop in recent months.
The chart below shows how the share of remote search activity has trended for five popular keywords. The share of remote search activity containing the keyword “customer”, likely job seekers looking for customer service roles, saw a 25 percent decrease between January and June 2021 after an increase of over 100 percent from March 2020 to January 2021. Meanwhile, the share of searches for remote positions in human resources has declined for the past three months despite exhibiting the most growth since June 2019. While human resources job seekers are still twice as likely to look for remote positions compared to job seekers for software engineering roles, the share of remote search activity in software engineering roles continues to show signs of growth, albeit at a slower rate than other roles had seen during the height of the pandemic. Even so, only 4.3 percent of all searches for software engineering roles were for remote positions as the majority of tech job seekers continue to search for in-person opportunities.
The decline in the share of remote search activity is not necessarily caused by loss of interest in remote opportunities. Rather, it is more likely tied to the increasing demand for in-person jobs as the economy reopens. For example, the reopening may have prompted more searches for in-person part time positions or business analyst roles as businesses reopen and employers call workers back to the workplace. Employers who are recruiting for roles where interest in remote positions remains high can leverage more remote opportunities to attract talent and gain a competitive advantage among other recruiters.
As companies begin readjusting their office reopening plans in response to the rise of the Delta COVID-19 variant, it is hard to tell whether demand for in-person opportunities will be replaced by remote positions once again. However, it is clear that despite many industries demonstrating success in work from home, job seekers are excited to return to in-person positions.
Our analysis examines Glassdoor user job searches and job applications that occurred in the United States between June 1, 2019 and June 31, 2021.
To determine the share of remote job searches, we looked at job searches where users selected “Remote” in the location filter. To determine the share of remote job applications, we looked at applications for job listings that specified the “Remote” working location. Our data does not account for job seekers who are interested in remote work but did not explicitly specify the remote criterion. We also did not account for employers who allow for work from home but specified local cities in their job listings.
Correction: A previous version of this post wrote that the share of remote searches between June 2019 and June 2021 increased by 460 percent. The correct increase is 360 percent, which can also be written as a 4.6 times increase.