In 2016, the average American commute was longer than ever before.
The average American commute edged up to 26 minutes and 36 seconds last year, up 12 seconds from last year, the latest data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey. Those 12 seconds may not sound like a lot, but consider this: Multiply it — twice a day, five days a week, 50 weeks a year — and it works out to an extra one hour and 40 minutes on the road for every single American worker last year.
Look at it another way: Compared with 1980, the typical American spent about 42 more hours commuting in 2016. That's like adding another full workweek to the calendar year.
Or another way: In 2016, the typical American worker spent more than nine full days getting to and from work.
Overall, the number of commuters with short commutes fell or stayed flat year over year, while longer commutes increased significantly. The share of workers with commutes between 60 and 89 minutes, for instance, rose 2.8 percent year-over-year, while the share with commutes of 90 minutes or more increased by 1.5 percent.
More than 13 million American workers now have one-way commutes of an hour or more, while about 4 million have one-way commutes greater than 90 minutes. Those 90-minute commuters spend, at minimum, the equivalent of one full month a year getting to and from work. Approximately 9 percent of their existence is devoted to their commute.
There is, however, one bright spot for workers: telework. The share of workers who did their jobs exclusively at home shot up to 5 percent, or 7.6 million. That's also a record high. The share of workers who work exclusively at home has more than doubled since 1980.
So there's good and bad in the Census commuting numbers. For those still commuting, it's bad. Recall that there are few activities Americans hate as much as commuting. With good reason: Longer commutes are linked with increased risks for obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, back and neck pain, divorce, depression and death.
At the societal level, people who commute more are less likely to vote. They're more likely to be absent from work. They're less likely to escape poverty. They have kids who are more likely to have emotional problems.
On the other hand, more workers and employees appear to be circumventing the rat race via remote work. That's likely to make those workers happier and healthier, and we know that happier, healthier workers appear to be more productive.
Seen from that angle, remote work is a win-win — especially as commutes get longer.