Office-less in Seattle: Census shows nearly half of city' s employees work from home

New survey data shows home work grew five fold since 2019.

Updated: September 16, 2022 - 11:41pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Nearly 50% of Seattleites who are employed work in comfortable pants, a T-shirt and a good pair of slippers, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The recently released census data shows that the number of Seattle workers who worked from their homes increased from about 36,000 people in 2019 to 205,000 in 2021. That is 47% of all workers who live in the city.

Nationwide, the number of people working from home tripled from 5.7% or roughly 9 million people to 17.9%, or 27.6 million people. The dramatic increase in numbers may speak to the difficulty of data collection caused by the pandemic.

The U.S. Census Bureau had to skip the American Community Survey where the latest data stems from in 2020. This data is the first chance to compare pre-pandemic rates with post-pandemic rates through the census bureau.

The Downtown Seattle Association has been tracking the economic recovery of the downtown area of Seattle. Companies such as Amazon, Zulily, PitchBook and small businesses surrounding the Pike Place Market work in the city’s busiest district. However, the pandemic shifted work to be done from home for employees throughout the downtown area.

James Sido, the director of media relations at the Downtown Seattle Association, pointed to the latest report from the organization showing trends are increasing for workers returning to offices. From mid-July through the end of August, the association noted that weekly return-to-office figures were 40% or higher for seven of eight weeks. That is the most prolonged stretch above that mark since the start of the pandemic, according to the report.

However, since the week of Aug. 21, the percentage of office workers downtown dipped to 38%.

While offices remain mostly empty, residential areas are filling up downtown. For the third quarter of 2022 to date, there are estimated to be more than 56,000 occupied residential units downtown. The report says that is the highest number recorded since 2000.

The recent census data shows that Seattle is second only to Washington, D.C. with 48% of workers working from home within city limits in 2021. Other than San Francisco at 46%, all other major cities were below 40% last year.