Remote Work Trend: Big City Salaries in Small Towns — Are Zoomtowns Sustainable?

Hispanic Business Woman Working From Home Office.
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It was one of the hottest trends during the pandemic: Zoomtowns, or communities of remote workers in lower cost cities, towns and remote areas cashing big-city paychecks from top companies.

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And it doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. Pre-pandemic, less than 3% of U.S. job listings on LinkedIn were hiring for remote workers, according to a Bloomberg article. FlexJobs pinpointed the work-from-home group as just 4.9% of U.S. workers pre-pandemic. Today, 75% of workers say they would prefer to continue working from home, according to a FlexJobs survey.

Workers in mid-size cities like Wilmington, North Carolina, and Sarasota, Florida, are benefiting from the growth of remote work, with 50% of job listings on LinkedIn offering remote options, Bloomberg reported. For workers, there’s no limit to where they can apply for a job. In fields like tech, accounting, marketing, and healthcare, companies in larger cities are paying the same wages to remote workers as to locals.  

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Companies in states with a high cost-of-living and high pay to match have the highest populations of remote workers, according to one FlexJob report. California, Texas, and New York all rank top on the list of states for the most remote job listings.

With these states drawing top talent from across the country, local companies in small to mid-size cities and rural areas are feeling the pinch. Large companies from big cities can poach local talent with enticing remote work offers.

“There’s more competition for workers in local markets and in ways that local employers have not had to deal with before,” Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor, told Bloomberg. “This absolutely puts upward pressure on wages for these local markets.”

There is one upside for smaller cities, though. The increased spending power from locals working remotely benefits smaller cities, as highly paid residents spend their money at local stores and restaurants. But meanwhile, it also drives housing prices up, making it harder for local workers with salaries more in line with the cost-of-living in that region to keep up, Bloomberg reported.

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It also makes it harder for local companies to hire the talent they need. According to Bloomberg, companies in smaller cities are finding they can compete by offering a tight-knit company culture, more flexible hours, and other benefits, however.

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As the world evolves, remote work is here to stay. Talented, skilled workers have more opportunities than ever to determine what’s most important to them in their career — and find employers willing to offer it.

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About the Author

Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer and content marketing specialist who geeks out about finance, e-commerce, technology, and real estate. Her lengthy list of publishing credits include Bankrate, Lending Tree, and Chase Bank. She is the founder and owner of GeekTravelGuide.net, a travel, technology, and entertainment website. She lives on Long Island, New York, with a veritable menagerie that includes 2 cats, a rambunctious kitten, and three lizards of varying sizes and personalities – plus her two kids and husband. Find her on Twitter, @DawnAllcot.

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