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Local News

Buncombe County, and North Carolina At Large, Sees Boom In Remote Work

Credit: iStock

Anzhe Zhang

It’s no secret that one of the biggest shifts in work life in the past few years has been the increasing popularity of remote work as the pandemic forced offices everywhere to shut down. Companies, too, particularly in the technology sector, were realizing that a lot of their jobs didn’t need to be on-site. This increase in freedom allowed many Americans to move to where they want to live for the first time, no longer tethered to their job’s location.

Now, North Carolina ranks among the top 10 states when it comes to the number of remote jobs available, which has spurred more people to move to the state. Buncombe County, meanwhile, had a significantly higher remote job rate than the national average.

Pointing to the coastal region as just one of the factors that made the county “a desirable place to live,” Land of Sky Regional Council Economic and Community Development Director Erica Anderson noted that “prior to the pandemic, remote work was about 1-in-50 jobs nationwide, today it is 1 in 6 jobs.”

According to data from nTask, North Carolina has a 3.32 percent rate of remote jobs available, placing it seventh place in the nation. Meanwhile, Land of Sky reported that in 2020, Buncombe County had 11.4 percent of residents working from home, compared to the 7.3 percent national average.

Fast forward to 2021, where 20.2 percent of Asheville residents were working from home, while an estimated 18.8 percent of North Carolinians did the same, compared to the 17.9 percent national average. According to surveys, between 2019 and 2021, the amount of remote workers in the U.S. tripled.

“I thought it would be mostly dudes from the tech industry. I was very wrong. Gender is evenly split with quite a great diversity of people, it is Asheville after all. There are accountants, sales people, designers, writers, and even therapists,” Ric Pratte, an organizer for a remote work socializing group, said.

“Previously, people moved to where the jobs were located. Today, companies are moving to where the talent is located,” Anderson said, explaining how remote jobs have changed the work landscape, while noting that it was driving up housing costs.

But ​​Erin Leonard, the Vice President of Communications of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, argues that remote workers not only help the local economy through their spending power, but they might also eventually work locally.

“And down the road, remote workers may find their next career opportunity at a local company – keeping strong talent in our community,” Leonard said in an email.

According to the Pew Research Center, in January 2022, 59 percent of workers in the country who said they had the option to work remotely were doing so from home, with most of them doing so because they want to, and not due to any quarantine restrictions.

“Employers are grappling now with how much flexibility they provide for remote work. The employers who offer the most flexibility will be the most competitive when attracting and retaining talent,” Kit Cramer, the president of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, said.