Quoted rents were up by almost 4%, reflecting the strong conditions in this market for the last several years. Employment growth has been particularly robust in this market since 2003. Office employment was increased by 3% in both 2004 and 2005 and by 4% in 2003. In fact, the level of office employment continued to grow right throughout the national recession of 2000/2001.
This sustained employment growth in D.C. over the past five years has encouraged developers to continue providing new space even as the national recession and the slow growth that followed discouraged commercial construction in other metro areas, including New York City.
As a result, the Washington, D.C. market has a bountiful flow of new construction. In 2005, about 7 million sq ft was supplied in the entire metro area. Consequently, even though nearly 12 million sq ft was absorbed, the overall vacancy rate declined by only a little over one percentage point.
Looking ahead, it is expected that around 11 million sq ft of new office space will be delivered to this market over the next two years. Employment growth is likely to remain strong in the D.C. metro area, but the current employment forecast for this market is for growth that can absorb 10 million sq ft to 12 million sq ft. Therefore, the supply/demand balance will not tip in either direction.
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Boston, Philadelphia and the Northern New Jersey markets all improved in 2005. However, the vacancy rate in each of these three markets is at or above the national average. Even though Boston has an impressive array of high-tech companies, overall employment growth has been modest. Several major companies headquartered in this city have been acquired by firms located outside the region, putting a damper on employment growth.
Sections of the Philadelphia and Northern New Jersey markets enjoy strong employment growth and demand for office space. For example, the sub-markets along Philadelphia’s Main Line – west of Center City – have continued to perform well. In Northern New Jersey, the development along the Hudson River continues to attract the attention of major tenants.