Office Outlook

By on Feb 4, 2021 in News

Office markets across the country faced a harsh year in 2020, and the outlook is still unclear, at least for the near-term. Vacancy rates ticked up 40 basis points to 14.2% and full-service-equivalent listing rates fell 1% nationally to $37.76 in the last 12 months, according to the January CommercialEdge National Office Report.

Meanwhile, employment in office-using sectors has also largely been tracking the office space sector overall. Following a slight rebound in the summer and into early fall, employment is now falling again as the third wave of the virus drags on. Nationally, office-using employment fell 3.4% y-o-y in December. In fact, only 16 of the 120 markets covered in the report saw an increase in office-using employment, but most of them were under 2%. However, Austin’s office-using employment actually rose 6.4% in the last year, signaling a rosier outlook for Austin office space.

Despite the overall downturn, new office construction still continued. Even though some projects were halted temporarily, 67.6 million square feet of office space was delivered nationwide in 2020. Currently, Charlotte and Austin stand out as both have the most square footage under construction — 11.5% and 10.8%, respectively, of their overall stock.

“They both have high levels of domestic in-migration, and they have benefited from financial firm relocations. While New York City is still the financial capital of the world, financial jobs have been leaving for markets like Charlotte and Austin for years,” analysts noted in the report. “Much of the growth is driven by the financial activities sector, even though tech relocations capture most of the attention.”

One aspect of the office’s uncertain future is related to how we’ll get back to normal. The vaccine rollout isn’t going as fast as many hoped, so a return to normalcy may be delayed until late 2021 at the earliest. It’s also unclear how many businesses may have reevaluated exactly how much space they need, as well as whether some employees can continue to work remotely.

Find the full CommercialEdge Office Monthly for download.