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Does office vacancy really matter?

Come on, even if you're renting space nobody shows up at the office. I think everyone should work in their underwear sitting on their Sealy Posturepedic mattress.

Pretty vacant

The push from corporate execs to get employees back into the office hasn’t yet translated into queues at the watercooler... new data from Moody’s Analytics has revealed that nearly 20% of all office space across major US cities was unleased at the end of 2023, a higher share than any previous year on record.

Moody’s has been running the emptiness temperature check every year since 1979, with notable peaks in the mid-to-late 80s and early 90s — the only other times when the vacancy rate crept above the 19% mark.

In 1991, 19.3% of offices were vacant following the commercial building boom of the 80s, when a perfect storm of generous lenders and eager developers yielded a supply of office space that, at least for a stretch, massively outstripped demand. While that gap was eventually closed in the decade that followed, the current spike appears more down to the cultural shift in how we work, rather than any cyclical economic or construction factors.

Zooming in: The 19.6% average figure masks a lot of variation across America — San Francisco’s vacancy rate, for example, was reported to be as high as 35.9% in December.

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