LIFESTYLE

On the road again: Commuting makes a comeback as employers try to put pandemic in the rearview

Sep 13, 2023, 9:17 PM

FILE - An officer directs traffic at Love Field Airport in Dallas, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022. The ra...

FILE - An officer directs traffic at Love Field Airport in Dallas, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022. The rate of people working from home dropped from 17.9% in 2021 to 15.2% in 2022, according to new survey data released Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, by the U.S. Census Bureau on life in America, covering commuting times internet access, family life, income, education levels, disabilities, military service and employment. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — If you think U.S. roads have gotten busier on your morning commute, you’re not alone.

The rate of workers driving to their jobs creeped upwards nationwide last year, as did those who carpool to work by car, truck or van. The mean commuting time jumped by almost a minute in 2022 from the previous year, as more businesses ended full-time remote work, a sign that post-pandemic life edged closer in 2022 to what it was before COVID-19.

The rate of people working from home dropped from almost 18% in 2021 to 15.2% in 2022, according to new survey data on life in America released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. The survey covers commuting times, internet access, family life, income, education levels, disabilities, military service, and employment, among other topics.

Mark Behrens, a human resources data analyst in Orlando working for a Fortune 500 company, started driving to his office in March 2022 after working from home for two years because of the pandemic. Managers now require employees to spend at least three days a week in the office. While most of his co-workers resented the order, Behrens was elated to see the in-person collaboration with his colleagues return to something that felt closer to normal.

“The advantage of coming into the office, even if it’s only hybrid, is not being isolated, having some social connections,” Behrens said. “You see people and you mention something you are working on and you start to talk about it more, and you can come up with more solutions, and make more progress.”

The rate of people commuting to work alone in a vehicle climbed from 67.8% in 2021 to 68.7% in 2022, and it went from 7.8% to 8.6% for carpoolers. Public transportation usage rose from 2.5% to 3.1% year-over-year, and the time people spent traveling to work jumped almost a full minute to 26.4 minutes in 2022 compared to 25.6 minutes in 2021, according to the American Community Survey’s 1-year estimates.

Despite the significant decline in working remotely from 2021 to 2022, it still was almost three times higher than before the pandemic in 2019, when it was only 5.7% and more than three-quarters of workers drove alone to work in a vehicle. The 2022 survey did not let participants say whether they work from home full-time or only some of the time.

Even though there were advantages to working from home, like throwing something into the crock pot during lunch breaks, Allison Graves was happy to return to her first-grade classroom after teaching virtually for most of the first two years of the pandemic, which started in early 2020. With a renewed commute, she could catch up on podcasts she missed because she didn’t spend so much time in her car.

“Continuing virtually just wasn’t the same as teaching face-to-face,” said Graves, who lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia. “People spent much of 2020 and 2021 not going places, and now people are expected to be back or doing hybrid.”

Earlier this week, the Census Bureau released national data on income, poverty and the rate of people without health insurance. American Community Survey data released Thursday showed what those rates were broken down by states and smaller geographies.

The District of Columbia and New Jersey had the highest median household income with $101,027 and $96,346, respectively, compared to more than $74,000 nationally. Mississippi’s $52,719 was the lowest of any state.

The rate of those lacking health insurance was lowest in Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, respectively 2.4% and 2.9%, compared to the national average of 8%. It was highest in Texas at 16.6%.

Fewer people moved in 2022 compared to 2021, and the presence of a child in a household also dropped slightly. The average household size trended lower, going from 2.54 to 2.5 people, as did the average family size, going from 3.15 to 3.11 people.

The foreign born population inched up slightly to 13.9%, and the rate of people who spoke only English at home dropped slightly from the previous year to 78% in 2022.

Even though the back-in-office-three-days-a-week work schedule was mandated for Behrens’ office in 2022, few co-workers followed it, so his company decided not to renew its Orlando office lease. Now all 100 office employees will be working from home, something Behrens isn’t looking forward to when it starts at the end of the month.

“I won’t get to see anybody,” Behrens said. “It’s not ideal for me, though most people have no problem with this, whatsoever, and love it and don’t miss the commute.”

___

Follow Mike Schneider on X, formerly known as Twitter: @MikeSchneiderAP.

Lifestyle

Associated Press

US Olympic and other teams will bring their own AC units to Paris, undercutting environmental plan

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — The U.S. Olympic team is one of a handful that will supply air conditioners for their athletes at the Paris Games in a move that undercuts organizers’ plans to cut carbon emissions. U.S. Olympic and Paralympic CEO Sarah Hirshland said Friday that while the U.S. team appreciates efforts aimed at sustainability, […]

2 days ago

Associated Press

Shiny monolith removed from mountains outside Las Vegas. How it got there still is a mystery

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A strange monolith found jutting out of the rocks in a remote mountain range near Las Vegas has been taken down by authorities. How it got there is still unsolved. “It remains unknown how the item got to its location or who might be responsible,” Las Vegas police said Friday in […]

2 days ago

Associated Press

‘The Outsiders’ wins best musical and ‘Stereophonic’ best play as women make strides at Tony Awards

NEW YORK (AP) — “The Outsiders,” a gritty adaptation of the classic young adult novel, became the essence of a Broadway insider on Sunday, winning the Tony Award for best new musical on a night when women made strides. The musical based on the beloved S. E. Hinton book is about rival gangs of haves […]

9 days ago

Associated Press

Her dying husband worried she’d have money troubles. Then she won the lottery

FREEPORT, Pa. (AP) — In the weeks before his death, Karen Coffman’s husband worried she might have money troubles after he was gone. But two weeks before he died in April of complications from a brain tumor, the Pennsylvania woman bought a scratch-off state lottery ticket that netted her $1 million. “When I told him […]

9 days ago

Associated Press

You don’t think corn dogs are haute cuisine? These chefs, using alligator sausage, beg to differ.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Stefani De Palma, an award-winning chef and head of the a team vying to represent the Americas in a French culinary competition in January, knew she wanted her team’s work to feature flavors of her native California. The challenge at the Bocuse d’Or Americas competition this week in New Orleans was […]

10 days ago

Associated Press

High school president writes notes thanking fellow seniors — 180 of them

Emily Post would be proud. A high school class president in Massachusetts who gave a commencement speech wanted to recognize all of his fellow graduates. So he wrote them personal thank-you notes presented at the ceremony — 180 to be exact. “I wish I could’ve acknowledged you all, but there was simply not enough time,” […]

11 days ago

On the road again: Commuting makes a comeback as employers try to put pandemic in the rearview