Tech industry struggles another blow to weary office sector

Another challenge for the U.S. office sector? Tech companies, which for so many years remained in constant expansion mode, are finally beginning to reduce their payrolls to save money. They’re also shrinking their office footprints to slash even more costs, another blow to an already beleaguered office sector.

That is the takeaway from the December office report recently released by CommercialEdge.

It’s yet another report highlighting the struggles of the office sector since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just consider some of the numbers CommercialEdge highlights:

The average U.S. listing rate stood at $38.06 at the end of November, down 3.1% on a year-over-year basis. The national office vacancy rose 110 basis points at the end of last month to hit 16.2%.

And tech company struggles are only exacerbating the office market’s woes.

Look at Meta, the company still better known to most as Facebook. Meta has already left four office buildings and is set to give up its presence at two more. And this is happening only since Meta’s third-quarter earnings call.

On the brighter side? CommercialEdge says that several tech companies have stated that their workers won’t be able to work out of the office on a full-time basis. That at least brings hope that the tech sector will remain an important contributor to office demand in the coming years.

Two key markets in the Midwest have at least held steady when it comes to office rents and vacancy rates. In Nashville, the average listing rate for office space in November was $31.20 a square foot, an increase of 2.8% from a year earlier. The office vacancy rate here actually fell 10 basis points from last November to 18%.

In Chicago, the average listing rate for office space rose to $27.89 a square foot at the end of November. That is an increase of 2.7% from the same month a year earlier. The Chicago office market’s vacancy rate stood at 19% at the end of November, up 30 basis points from a year ago.

The sluggish state of the office market hasn’t choked off development completely, though. CommercialEdge reported that 132.3 million square feet of office space was under construction as of the end of October of this year, the equivalent of 2.1% of existing stock.

CommercialEdge also reported $80.4 billion in office transactions through the first 11 months of the year. Dallas recorded more than $4 billion in office sales through the first 11 months of 2023, while Chicago saw more than $3.1 billion.

Austin, Texas, recorded more than $1.9 billion in office sales during this time, while Nashville saw more than $1.3 billion. Minneapolis-St. Paul notched more than $970 million in office sales during the first 11 months of 2022.