Census Bureau Finds That Home-Based Work Is on the Rise

Journalists who have been shouldered out of newsrooms and who are trying to create new careers at the kitchen table will find they are not alone.

The U.S. Census Bureau, which launched the Census 2010 count Monday at a remote village in Alaska, reported that the number of people who describe themselves as home workers jumped from 9.5 million in 1999 to about 11.3 million in 2005.

That's not a small number, and neither is their income. Nearly half of these "homepreneurs" told the Census Bureau that they make $75,000 a year or more.

Alison Fields, chief of the Census Bureau's Journey to Work and Migration Statistics Branch, said a growing percentage of workers spend at least some time working from home. The census form asked, "How did you usually get to work LAST WEEK?" One of the categories respondents could check was "Worked at home," and "usually" was defined as the most number of days during the week.

This isn't the first time the Census Bureau has indicated that working from home is on the rise. 

In December, it reported that almost half of the nation's businesses are operated from homes. It noted after its 1990 count that the work-at-home trend had reversed [PDF] and that people were starting to move from offices to homes.

That trend would include freelance journalists, of course.

The Census Bureau's Fields said in Monday's announcement that "this survey provides a better picture of the attributes of these people, as well as which professionals and occupations allow them to work at home."

Almost one-third of the people who classified themselves as professional and related service workers said they usually worked from home. Another 4 percent said they were in transportation, communication and public utilities. These are the sectors most likely to contain journalists who spend at least part of their work week at home.

There are signs that the work-at-home trend is growing for journalists. Many newsrooms have for years been using technology to keep some staffers, such as sportswriters, on the road. Interest in offshoring, which seems to have died down, opened the door to having work done by people who are not on-site. Freelancing services and so-called content farms are booming, and virtual internships, for which interns never need to go to the office, are growing.

The Census Bureau asked people why they became home-based workers. The top reason was that it was required. Other reasons had to do with allowing more time for school, child care and care for other family members. A smaller number said they simply could not get any other job.
The Wall Street Journal reported in September that more than one-fourth of the internships posted on UrbanInterns.com were virtual, meaning they were from home. The site focuses on part-time gigs with small businesses and calls itself "the future of hiring."

BusinessWeek said this week that the Census report reinforces its earlier point that home-based enterprises are serious. People posting comments on the article said today's tough job market will only accelerate the trend.

The work-at-home Census report said that "high-paying jobs were more likely to involve working at home for some or all of the work time. In 2005, 46 percent of people who said they worked at home some or all of the time earned at least $75,000 per year, compared with 34 percent of non-home workers who made at least that much."

Working at home also carries longer hours -- 11 percent of the respondents said they worked more than 11 hours a day.

E-mail Joe Grimm for answers to your career questions.

Coming Friday: She has seven years of experience and thinks she interviews well, but is afraid her resume is not selling her adequately.

  • Joe Grimm

    Joe Grimm is a visiting editor in residence at the Michigan State University School of Journalism. He runs the JobsPage Website.


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