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Pandemic-era Job Postings Reveal Top Occupations Offering Remote Work

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By Alessia Leibert
December 2021

Data Offers Glimpse at Potential Future Trends

According to job postings collected from June 2020 to October 2021, the share of Minnesota jobs offering the option of working remotely nearly doubled, going from 5.3% to 10.4% (see Table 1). The possibility to perform remote work obviously differs by job type, with certain jobs having 0% incidence and others having more than 30% incidence.

Table 1: Incidence of remote work and growth in the shares of remote work in job postings by occupation group from 2020 to 2021, ranked by incidence of remote work in 2021

SOC code Occupation group Share allowing Telework, June-Sept 2020* Share allowing Telework, July-Oct 2021* Difference
  Total, all occupations 5.3% 10.4% 5.1%
15 Computer and Mathematical Occupations 17% 31% 14%
23 Legal Occupations 20% 29% 9%
13 Business and Financial Operations Occupations 15% 22% 7%
11 Management Occupations 13% 21% 8%
27 Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media Occupations 8% 11% 4%
21 Community and Social Service Occupations 7% 10% 4%
43 Office and Administrative Support Occupations 5% 10% 5%
17 Architecture and Engineering Occupations 8% 9% 1%
19 Life, Physical, and Social Science Occupations 7% 9% 2%
25 Education, Training, and Library Occupations 5% 6% 1%
41 Sales and Related Occupations 2% 5% 3%
29 Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations 4% 4% 0%
39 Personal Care and Service Occupations 2% 2% 0%
31 Healthcare Support Occupations 1% 1% 0%
37 Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations 1% 1% 0%
33 Protective Service Occupations 0% 1% 1%
35 Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations 0% 0% 0%
49 Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations 0% 0% 0%
53 Transportation and Material Moving Occupations 0% 0% 0%
47 Construction and Extraction Occupations 0% 0% 0%
51 Production Occupations 0% 0% 0%
45 Farming, Fishing, and Forestry Occupations 0% 0% 0%

Source: National Labor Exchange (NLX) job postings, author analysis

* For 2020, 12 days in June are included in the examined time frame. For 2021, October was added to the examined time frame to pick the most recent trends.

The top 11 occupational groups displayed in Table 1 were suitable for being performed remotely even before the pandemic, but the pandemic accelerated existing trends. On top of the list, not surprisingly, we find Computer and Mathematical Occupations, which nearly doubled from a 17% incidence of remote work in 2020 to 31% a year later.

While remote work in IT and other occupations that involve spending many hours in front of a computer is not surprising, it could be surprising in occupations that are commonly thought of as requiring a high degree of face-to-face contact, like social service workers and salespeople. During the pandemic some social services were transitioned online, including mental health and correctional treatment counseling. The 4% growth in the incidence of remote work in Community and Social Service Occupations suggests that some clients or patients appreciated remote service delivery options. Even Sales and Related Occupations experienced growth in the availability of remote work, going from very low levels (2% in June-Sept 2020) to 5% in the second half of 2021.

And some direct health care jobs proved suitable for remote work. Job roles such as "telephone registered nurse" and "nurse case manager -remote" existed before the pandemic and may continue to exist.

Other types of jobs, in contrast, did not offer any or only very few remote work options in 2020 and continued to remain unaffected by these trends due to the nature of the work: food preparation, construction/maintenance/repair, transportation, manufacturing, farming.

A new talent recruiting tool

The COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting economic disruption caused by closures and layoffs, changed job searching methods and job-seekers expectations forever, creating winners and losers among employers in the talent recruiting race. At a time when telecommuting and flexible work schedules are becoming the norm, employers who cannot offer these perks to jobseekers find themselves at a disadvantage. In fact, it is not an accident that the jobs employers are currently struggling the most to fill are more concentrated at the bottom of Table 1: Healthcare Support, Food Preparation & Serving, Installation, Construction, Manufacturing, Transportation & Material Moving.

Which workers have the advantage when employers can hire from anywhere? In terms of occupation, those with the flexibility most likely to be able to work remotely are listed in Table 2. All of these jobs require post-secondary credentials except for Sales Representatives of Services and Customer Service Representatives. This suggests that workers who are already in high skilled and high paid positions are most likely to benefit from the availability of remote work options

Table 2: Incidence of remote work in job postings by occupation from January to October 2021, occupations with 2,000 job postings or more, ranked by incidence of remote work in 2021

Occupation Job postings allowing remote work Total job postings Share Typical education level to enter the occupation
Network and Computer Systems Administrators 1,725 4,533 38%

Bachelor's degree

Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Technical and Scientific Products 1,138 3,262 35%

Bachelor's degree

Computer Systems Analysts 2,139 6,252 34%

Bachelor's degree

Computer User Support Specialists 2,063 6,238 33%

Postsecondary non-degree award

Marketing Managers 3,959 12,019 33%

Bachelor's degree

Management Analysts 3,519 12,124 29%

Bachelor's degree

Information Security Analysts 1,288 4,503 29%

Bachelor's degree

Computer and Information Systems Managers 1,420 5,064 28%

Bachelor's degree

Sales Representatives of Services, Except Advertising, Insurance, Financial Services, and Travel 1,090 3,976 27%

High school diploma or equivalent

Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists 1,745 6,630 26%

Bachelor's degree

Sales Managers 1,682 6,740 25%

Bachelor's degree

Loan Officers 635 2,698 24%

High school diploma or equivalent

Human Resources Specialists 1,503 6,469 23%

Bachelor's degree

Medical and Health Services Managers 1,063 4,988 21%

Bachelor's degree

Financial Analysts 675 3,169 21%

Bachelor's degree

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 608 3,054 20%

Master's degree

Architectural and Engineering Managers 447 2,368 16%

Bachelor's degree

Accountants and Auditors 1,194 7,677 16%

Bachelor's degree

General and Operations Managers 888 6,544 14%

Bachelor's degree

Customer Service Representatives 2,193 16,112 14%

High school diploma or equivalent

Sales probably provides the largest group of remote work opportunities for people with a high school education. Jobs in sales, especially business-to-business sales, that are advertised on LinkedIn with the keyword "remote work" attract more applicants than those that do not offer this option (author's analysis).

In terms of geographic location, Table 3 shows that firms in the Twin Cities metro have an advantage, with a 12% incidence of remote work in postings from June 2020, likely because that's where most high-tech firms are concentrated. Large high-tech companies have the technology and the resources to offer remote work policies, in part because they are increasingly developing and selling them to other businesses.

Table 3: Incidence of remote work in job postings by Planning Region

Planning Region

Share allowing Telework, Jan-Oct 2021

Twin Cities Metro 12.9%
Northeast 8.2%
Southeast 7.5%
Northwest 2.4%
Central 2.0%
Southwest 2.0%

At a time when a greater than typical number of workers are voluntarily quitting their jobs presumably to look for work that is a better fit for them and their families, flexible hours – including remote work options – can be a powerful retention and recruitment tool for employers who can offer them.

Will remote work persist after the pandemic?

How do we know if these trends towards greater use of remote work are here to stay even after the pandemic is over? One clue of the long-term nature of this trend can be gleaned by the emergence of new job roles related to remote work technologies. Based on an analysis of job title keywords, there has been an increase in demand for workers with skills in cloud computing, data/network security, and technologies enabling the safe transmission and analysis of large volumes of data to be accessed virtually. One example of these trends is the two-fold increase from Q3 2020 to Q3 2021 in job postings classified as Computer & Mathematical Occupations containing the keyword "cloud" in the job title1. Furthermore, some job postings explicitly promote the availability of remote or hybrid work models in the long term. Here are four examples that point to a broader trend:

  • Currently working remotely and following local COVID-19 bylaws and guidelines with the majority of our offices being remote until July 2021. Upon return, we will be embracing a hybrid work environment consisting of in-office and remote work.
  • Long-term, this position offers you the flexibility to work remotely 1-2 days per week
  • We are a remote company (this isn't temporary).
  • Our hybrid work model gives you the flexibility and choice so you can create a career that enhances your life, allowing you to work remotely 1-2 days/week.

These trends are not generalizable to all job roles, but to those most suitable for remote work.

Besides attempting to gauge, like we've done in this study, the potential for remote work to be extended indefinitely in certain sectors, an even more important question to try to answer is the following: What could be the impact of remote work technologies on day-to-day tasks and skills sets required to work in the jobs of the future? Since the technologies that enable remote work proved very successful at boosting productivity, they have the potential to transform the skills sets needed in many jobs even in the event that workers will return to their physical office locations after the pandemic emergency is over.

The ability to use remote/virtual technologies to communicate with customers wherever they are (for example through web presentation applications like Zoom), enter and share records using Salesforce or other cloud-based applications aimed at centralizing customer information, ensure data security and privacy, and search patterns in data to support sales and product development/testing are poised to become increasingly valuable skills sets across a variety of industries and occupations. These trends should be monitored very closely by education and training institutions to better align their curriculum to the most in-demand skills businesses are going to need in the near future.

Which categories of workers might be most attracted by remote work options?

Expanding remote work options could be a game-changer for many job seekers, including women with school-age children, workers in rural areas of the state, workers without independent transportation, worker with disabilities and workers with underlying health issues or who are over 60 who are worried about exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace. Given Minnesota's winter weather conditions, the ability to work from home would translate to real savings in terms of commuting time and transportation costs.

However, these opportunities can be seized only by workers with reliable access to high-speed internet2 and with a minimum level of digital literacy. If remote work will become permanent in certain job roles, and if remote work technologies will be adopted across the economy, it is essential to start boosting digital and data literacy in the workplace, especially among workers with no formal education beyond high school who are more at risk of being left behind by these global transformations.

1 The number of unique postings related to cloud technologies (cloud computing, cloud engineering, cloud migration, cloud architecture) rose from 384 in 3rd quarter 2020 to 791 in 3rd quarter 2021.

2 From a job posting for a nurse case manager: "Must have accessibility to high speed DSL or Cable modem for a home office (for data confidentiality/security reasons, satellite internet service is NOT allowed for this role).

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