Workers still ditching offices for remote jobs

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(NewsNation) — Jeff Jones and his wife Courtney fled Arizona for Iowa a year ago and are a part of a growing trend: remote workers ditching high-cost big cities for smaller, more affordable towns.

Moving from the large metro area of Phoenix to the small town of Pella, Iowa, was a bit of culture shock for the couple.

“There were 11,000 people in our subdivision in Phoenix and we moved to a town of 10,000 people,” Jones said.

With inflation driving up rental and housing prices in many major metropolitan areas, folks are taking advantage of their flexible work life to squeeze a bit more out of their paychecks.

“It was substantially cheaper for property out here. When it comes to prices, fuel is cheaper as well as some of the everyday things like groceries,” Jones said. “There’s a substantial difference in cost.”

Flexible work-life balance is only getting more popular post-pandemic. LinkedIn said in February of this year that remote jobs received 50% of all applications during the month, despite representing less than 20% of all jobs posted. That’s a first, the company said.

Upwork, a platform for freelance workers, surveyed 23,000 people and found that 9.3% of them —representing nearly 20 million Americans — are planning on moving because of the ability to work remotely, and that the high cost of living is leading people to flee superstar cities including San Francisco and New York.

States with no income tax, such as Tennessee, Texas and especially Florida, are seeing a wave of newcomers.

“For those who are fortunate to work remotely, they can enjoy salaries from businesses they’ve been with for many, many years and live down here enjoy the South Florida lifestyle,” said Bonnie Heatzig, executive director of luxury sales at Douglas Elliman.

But that’s also contributing to the housing crisis. People with New York-style budgets swooping into take advantage of much cheaper real estate in sunny Florida.

“They seem to have more significant budgets than a lot of the local buyers in the area … and a lot of the New York buyers were coming in with cash and usurping a lot of those properties,” Heatzig said.

That’s coincided with a spike in the lack of affordable housing. In Sarasota, Florida — one of the newfound remote work hot spots — local agencies have seen a 25% increase in the number of people seeking homelessness services.

With inflation driving up the cost of living and cutting worker paychecks by 3%, per the Labor Department, it’s no wonder families are rushing off to more affordable towns to stay afloat.

“Looking back, I can have no regrets,” Jeff Jones said. “We’re still fortunate enough that we can go visit Phoenix twice a year and still see our friends and get plenty of golf in.”

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