Portlanders Still Love Working From Home

Portland’s living-room workforce remains far above the U.S. average.

Downtown Portland streets see less foot traffic these days. (Brian Burk)

By most measures, downtown Portland has been slower to recover from COVID-19 than many other metro areas.

Cellphone data analyzed by the University of Toronto (criticized by some for defining Portland’s downtown too narrowly) showed that Stumptown was a laggard. Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released data showing that Multnomah County lost 8,294 residents in 2022, cutting the population to 795,083. Though small, any loss is a big deal in a town that once grew faster than the line at Salt & Straw on a Sunday in August.

Now, there is more census data that might explain why downtown still feels empty.

The Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro metro area (that’s a census designation) ranked 10th in terms of people working from home in 2022, with 23.3% favoring a laptop and pajamas in the den over a commute to the old office, according to Bloomberg News, which reported on the data this week.

That figure is down from 27.5% in 2021, mirroring a national trend of going back to the office, albeit slowly. And Portland is still far above the U.S. average: 15.2% in 2022, down from 17.9% in 2021.

The top work-from-home locale in both 2021 and 2022? Boulder, Colo., at 36.3% and 32%, respectively. But working from home was a thing in Boulder before the pandemic. It topped the list at 13.7% in 2019, when Portland didn’t even make the top 25.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.