Minnesota Now with Cathy Wurzer

Why are there so many remote workers in Minnesota compared to other states?

A woman in a denim shirt working from home
Data shows Minnesota has high numbers of remote workers compared to other parts of the nation.
Ivan Samkov on Pexels

New data analyzed by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis has found that Minnesota has one of the higher shares of remote workers in the country and the highest in the Midwest.

Haley Chinander is an analyst with the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. She joined MPR News host Cathy Wurzer to talk about her article breaking down these new numbers.

As a note, Chinander’s views are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Minneapolis Fed or the Federal Reserve System.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

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Audio transcript

CATHY WURZER: Do you work from home? New data analyzed by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis has found that Minnesota has one of the higher shares of remote workers in the country and the highest in the Midwest.

Joining us right now is Haley Chinander, an analyst with the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and the author of a new article that breaks down these new numbers. And just so you know, Haley's views are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Minneapolis Fed or the Federal Reserve System. Haley Chinander, thank you for joining us.

HALEY CHINANDER: Yeah, hi, Cathy. Thanks for having me on today.

CATHY WURZER: Absolutely. Thanks for taking the time. So should I be surprised by this? I mean, where do we rank, and how does that compare to the rest of the US?

HALEY CHINANDER: Yeah, for sure. So Minnesota was eighth in the country in 2023 with 34% of workers working at least one day at home, and this is from the Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey. First was Maryland with 40%, and Mississippi had the lowest at 13%.

CATHY WURZER: OK, so we had the highest percentage in the Midwest, which is what you mentioned. Who's got the lowest in the Midwest?

HALEY CHINANDER: Lowest in the Midwest would be North Dakota. They are definitely lower than the rest of the region, I believe, if I'm looking at my chart correctly, they were at 16% of workers who worked at least one day at home in 2023.

CATHY WURZER: Do we have any ideas as to why we have so many workers working remote at this point?

HALEY CHINANDER: Yeah, so this particular article didn't cover that, but I think one of the reasons I heard in my conversations with people who have researched this topic more in depth is that the number of headquarters in Minnesota [INAUDIBLE] economy and how diverse the economy is might be driving this. So with so many Fortune 500 companies here, we have a lot of occupations where remote work is possible compared to other states in our region. So that's one reason I've heard about the higher rates here.

CATHY WURZER: Sure. OK, that would make some sense. There are, of course, folks-- many individuals have a hybrid schedule now. How does Minnesota look when it comes to the days in and the days at home?

HALEY CHINANDER: Yeah, so the Census Household Pulse Survey asks people how many days they worked remote in the last week, and for Minnesotans, we see that three to four days were more common than one to two days relative to other states in the Federal Reserve's ninth district. So that shows that if these workers are in hybrid schedules, these schedules may be a bit more generous, and they may be spending more time at home than at the office in Minnesota compared to other states.

CATHY WURZER: Do we know at this point what remote work-- the impact remote work has had on productivity?

HALEY CHINANDER: Yeah, this is something my research hasn't focused on, but it's a really good question, and I've heard from my conversations that business owners do find a lot of value in people being in the office and having those in-person interactions. Whether that means productivity is increased when being in the office, I can't say. But people are really still trying to understand the true effects of it, and I'm curious to see what others find out.

CATHY WURZER: Although if you talk to individuals who do remote work from home, they say they are very productive. So I guess, as you say, we'll have to see how this shakes out.

The data shows Minnesota's unemployment rate is pretty low, as you know, compared to the national rate. I wonder the impact of remote work on the job market.

HALEY CHINANDER: Yeah, I don't know for sure. I haven't studied this, and it was outside the scope of my article, but I have heard that some employers see remote work as a benefit to attract employees. We've had a really tight labor market over the last few years, and employers have been looking at ways to attract more workers and get those positions filled.

And one of the things that seems to be working is offering flexible schedules and remote work. So whether that has an impact on the job market, I'm not sure, but it is one of those things I've heard from my conversations that it is a benefit that people are using.

CATHY WURZER: Do experts think that remote-work policies will stay in place, or are things still shifting?

HALEY CHINANDER: It's an evolving situation, and it definitely seems like it is a situation where people have now experienced it and they don't want to go back. There are definitely employers that want people to come back, and there are workers that don't ever want to come back. So I don't know for sure what the future will look like, but it definitely is lingering a lot longer past just the original use case for it as being a mitigation measure during the pandemic.

CATHY WURZER: I think this is really interesting, and I bet you're probably going to be looking at this for quite some time. What aspects of this will you be focusing on maybe in the future?

HALEY CHINANDER: Yeah, I definitely want to look at the demographic breakdown of remote work. I think it has a lot of interesting effects possibly on family structure and how people decide to work and if they decide not to work. So I haven't dug into that yet, but I'm excited to keep digging into it and keep tracking it because it's important for us to understand the labor market here and how workers are affected.

CATHY WURZER: Well, it was fun talking to you, Haley. By the way, I'm assuming that you're in the office. Are you at home?

HALEY CHINANDER: Yes, I am at the office today, but I will be at home tomorrow. So it's definitely a hybrid schedule for me.

CATHY WURZER: All right, Haley, thank you so very much.

HALEY CHINANDER: Yeah, thank you.

CATHY WURZER: Haley Chinander is an analyst and writer with the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

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