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Study shows 37% of US jobs can be done from home

(Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

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With the U.S. economy largely shut down in response to the Wuhan virus COVID-19, “social distancing” measures taken to arrest the spread of the virus, which originated in China, have taken precedence and millions of Americans have seen their jobs fall to the wayside.

A study from the National Bureau of Employment Research evaluating the economic impact of “social distancing” shows that just 37 percent of jobs in the United States can be done remotely, the Daily Mail reported.

Those fortunate enough to be able to work from home have been able to maintain an income, as are those who work in essential jobs. But that leaves many who now find themselves largely dependent on the government for their sustenance, many for the first time ever.

According to the study, the education industry has the most number of jobs that can be performed at home — the finding may prove to be a valuable lesson in the eventual aftermath, given the cost to maintain facilities and campuses.

No surprise, the hardest-hit industries appear to be restaurants and hospitality, with just four percent of jobs able to be done remotely.

Other industries with the least amount of remote jobs included retail, construction, agriculture, transportation and warehousing.

The study showed a strong association between the ability to work remotely with high wage positions, which means, the less you make, the more unlikely it is that you can do your job from home.

“Workers in occupations that can be performed at home typically earn more,” NBER researchers said. “If we assume all occupations involve the same number of hours of work, the 37 percent of U.S. jobs that can plausibly be performed at home account for 46 percent of all wages.”

The study found there is significant variation across cities and industries.

“More than 45 percent of jobs in San Francisco, San Jose and Washington, DC could be performed at home, whereas, this is the case for 30 percent or less of the jobs in Fort Myers, Grand Rapids and Las Vegas,” the study said.

Respondents were asked to describe the types of activities their jobs regularly entailed in a national employment survey, with the information then compared with data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics about different industrial sectors and then analyzed to produce the final breakdown, the Daily Mail reported.

The study noted that it overstates how many American jobs can be done from home, saying estimates are “an upper bound on what might be feasible and greatly exceeds the share of jobs that, in fact, have been performed entirely at home in recent years.”

The NBER concluded that the findings could be helpful in steering financial help to those in most need and in predicting the effects of a shutdown on the economy.

“Due to COVID-19, many employees are unable to travel to work,” the study said in closing. “Identifying which jobs cannot be performed from home may be useful as policymakers try to target social insurance payments to those that most need them. Likewise, the share of jobs that could be performed at home is an important input to predicting the economy’s performance during this or subsequent periods of social distancing.”

Tom Tillison


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