The Number of People Primarily Working From Home Tripled Between 2019 and 2021

F.P. Report

WASHINGTON: Between 2019 and 2021, the number of people primarily working from home tripled from 5.7% (roughly 9 million people) to 17.9% (27.6 million people), according to new 2021 American Community Survey (ACS) 1-year estimates released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. Nearly half (48.3%) of workers in the District of Columbia worked from home, the highest percentage of home-based workers among states and state equivalents in 2021. In addition to the District of Columbia, states with the highest percentage of home-based workers were Washington (24.2%), Maryland (24.0%), Colorado (23.7%) and Massachusetts (23.7%). (These four states were not statistically different from each other.) 2021 marked the highest number and percentage of people working from home recorded since the ACS began in 2005.

“Work and commuting are central to American life, so the widespread adoption of working from home is a defining feature of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Michael Burrows, statistician in the Census Bureau’s Journey-to-Work and Migration Statistics Branch. “With the number of people who primarily work from home tripling over just a two-year period, the pandemic has very strongly impacted the commuting landscape in the United States.” 

With more people working from home and fewer commuting by private vehicle, the average one-way travel time to work dropped to 25.6 minutes in 2021, among the shortest times in the last decade. The average commute was two minutes shorter than the average of 27.6 minutes in 2019.

The ACS provides a wide range of important statistics about the nation’s people and housing, such as language spoken at home, education, commuting, employment, mortgage status and rent, income, poverty, and health insurance coverage. It is the only source of local estimates for most of the 40-plus topics it covers.

Below is a sample of available statistics.


In 2021, about 68% of workers drove alone to work, compared to roughly 76% in 2019. This corresponded to nearly 15 million fewer people commuting alone by private vehicle — 119,153,349 in 2019 compared to 104,650,121 in 2021.

Public transportation commuting fell by about half, from 5% of workers in 2019 to 2.5% in 2021, the lowest percentage of workers commuting by public transportation that has ever been recorded by the ACS.

In 2019, about 6% of workers living in metropolitan areas (metros) worked from home, compared to 5% living outside of metros (including micropolitan areas). In 2021, the percentage working from home in metro areas jumped to roughly 19%, compared with 9% of home-based workers outside of metros.

The percentage of workers who worked within their county of residence increased from 72.2% in 2019 to 76.5% in 2021. (This calculation includes home-based workers, who are treated as working within their county of residence.)

 Among metros with a million or more residents, the San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA Metro Area and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA Metro Area had the highest percentage of home-based workers (roughly 35%) in 2021. Both metros have strong links to the information and technology sectors.

Labor Force

From 2019 to 2021, the national unemployment rate among civilians age 16 and older increased from 4.5% to 6.3%, while the national civilian labor force participation rate decreased from 63.4% to 62.8%.

The percentage of U.S. adults ages 16 to 64 who worked full-time, year-round in the past 12 months dipped from 52.9% in 2019 to 50.5% in 2021.

Health Insurance

The uninsured rate across states and the District of Columbia ranged from 2.5% in Massachusetts to 18.0% in Texas in 2021. The uninsured rate increased in one state (North Dakota) and declined in 28 states.

In 2021, the percentage of people with private health insurance coverage in the states and the District of Columbia ranged from 53.3% in New Mexico to 77.8% in Utah (Utah’s private coverage rate did not statistically differ from North Dakota’s at 77.3%); public health insurance coverage in 2021 ranged from 22.3% in Utah to 50.9% in New Mexico. 

From 2019 to 2021, private health insurance coverage increased in one state (Florida), while 18 states saw declines in private coverage. Public coverage increased in 36 states, but no states experienced a decline in public coverage during this period.

Additional statistics on health insurance coverage can be found in the Health Insurance Coverage Status and Type by Geography: 2019 and 2021 report. There will also be an America Counts story, Uninsured Rate Declined in 28 States 2019-2021 exploring health insurance statistics from the ACS.

The ACS 1-year production data products were last released in 2019. If data users wish to make comparisons, they should compare the 2021 ACS 1-year estimates to the 2019 ACS 1-year estimates, not to the 2020 ACS 1-year experimental estimates released last year. For guidance on comparing 2021 ACS statistics with previous years and the 2020 Census, visit the Comparison Guidance page.

Additional Annual Releases

The Census Bureau is set to release additional ACS statistics over the next few months, including 2021 ACS 1-year supplemental estimates and 2017-2021 ACS 5-year estimates. For more information on the topics included in the ACS, ranging from educational attainment to computer use, visit the Subjects Included in the Survey page.

These statistics would not be possible without participation from ACS respondents throughout the country.