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Remote work gains momentum despite return-to-office mandates from high-profile CEOs

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Remote work gains momentum in US cities despite corporate push

New data from an international team of economists indicates that remote work is gaining momentum in some of America’s largest cities, despite corporate chiefs pressuring employees to return to the office. The researchers, including Stanford University’s Nicholas Bloom, have been tracking the prevalence of job ads offering flexible arrangements since the early days of the pandemic. They found that in major US cities such as New York, Chicago, and Atlanta, there are record levels of job postings for remote-friendly roles, which is a trend that’s on the rise.

Even with mayors pushing for employees to return to the office, remote work may continue to be a feature of city centers as data from security firm Kastle Systems reveals that office occupancy in major US cities is only about half of the pre-Covid level. However, some investors worry that commercial real estate owners who need to roll over their debt may face difficulties due to slumped property values and rising interest rates caused by the empty office towers.

The research team also found that Lansing, Michigan, has the highest share of remote job postings at 39%, with municipal governments and universities having a more unionized labor force, meaning unions may have to sign off on any return-to-office deal. The South is generally the worst part of the US for aspiring remote workers, with Bradenton, near Tampa in Florida, having the lowest percentage of remote or hybrid job ads.

However, not all industries are suitable for remote work, with transportation, food preparation, and health-care support requiring in-person work. Meanwhile, in the finance sector, remote work continues to grow, which could potentially upend the dominance of a particular region by a particular industry.

Many firms are seeking to limit remote work and mandate how often employees need to be in the office, but if the labor market cools down, bosses will have more leverage, and employees will have less. This may already be happening in some sectors such as technology, where large-scale layoffs have occurred. In San Jose, for example, the share of job ads at least partially open to remote work has fallen from a peak of 20% in December to 15% last month

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