New York’s Rockefeller Institute of Government has created a new Future of Labor Research Center, and the Center’s first study is making me optimistic about their future work. Where the Mobile Workforce is Living shares data and insights on, you guessed it!, where the mobile workforce is living. Specifically, it reviews the latest numbers on home-based workers, and shows that, nationally, about 5.3% of Americans currently work from home. This may not sound like a big number, but it accounts for 8.2 million people. And, their recent growth rates—up 47% since 2005—is pretty impressive too.
A deeper dive into the date offers some useful trends. A large number of these workers are based in traditional tech centers, but many are located in other places as well. In fact, the highest relative share of at-home workers can be found in places like Summit Park UT, Boulder CO, and Taos NM. (Fort Leonard Wood, MO has the highest share among US regions). Economic developers will be intrigued by survey results that show 7 out of 10 surveyed at-home workers would consider moving to a new location and are looking for locations outside of major cities. This suggests that strategies to attract and recruit at-home workers (what we used to call “lone eagles”) could pay dividends.
The report suggests two broad approaches to this “recruitment:” 1) Push local amenities as a magnet, especially in scenic areas of the Mountain West and elsewhere, and 2) Mix recruitment and local entrepreneurship programs to help the self-employed (both existing and new residents) to develop and grow businesses. This latter strategy is being embraced via new programs—in areas like Vermont, Tulsa OK, the Shoals region of Alabama—that offer incentives to attract new workers and entrepreneurs. If these trends persist, these strategies are likely to become a more important part of the program mix for rural communities around the US.