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Scores: Office vacancies rose in Q3

Published 4 months ago • 1 min read

Welcome to Nonrival, the newsletter where readers make predictions about business, tech, and politics.

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In this issue

Scores: Will the US office vacancy rate rise in Q3 to a new record level (16.5% or higher)?

  • Your forecast: [091023 GOES HERE]%
  • Your score: [091023_POINTS GOES HERE] points (out of 100)

  • Your total Season 2 points: [TOTAL_POINTS GOES HERE]

Of readers who have made at least one forecast in Season 2...

  • If you have 140 points or more, you're in the top half
  • If you have 230 points, you're in the top quarter
  • If you have 320, you're in the top 10%
  • The current high score is 395

Is the 'urban doom loop' real?

The offices stayed empty, as a majority of Nonrival readers expected they would.

In Q3, the US office vacancy rate rose to a new record high, according to Collier's. 16.7% of office space is now sitting empty, up from 16.4% in Q2. Vacancies rose in both suburbs and in cities.

San Francisco remains the city with highest office vacancy rate, according to Collier's, and it is the subject of a recent New Yorker article about the state of cities after Covid. That piece lays out the "urban doom loop" thesis in a paragraph:

The city’s longtime chief economist, Ted Egan, told me one afternoon that he could see four paths to disaster for a city like San Francisco. “Office industries are eighty per cent of our economy—everything depends on them,” he said. If so many workers vanished from downtown that retailers disappeared, causing more offices to shutter, that would be a doom loop. If public transportation had to cut service for want of fares, the city would grow unfriendly to work. If industry fled greater San Francisco, as car-making left Detroit in the fifties, a vortex could begin. And if tax revenue were so depleted that it required stripping services, the city could spin out.

About $8 billion in annual income moved out of San Francisco County in 2021, according to the Economic Innovation Group, a think tank. Meanwhile, the work-from-home trend shows no signs of stopping.

If office vacancies keep rising, cities will need to compete less on the ability to attract employers and more on being good places to live.

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