After rising modestly in Q2 and Q3 2020, occupancy levels dropped again in Q4 with a winter spike in COVID-19 cases. Occupancy currently averages just 26% among 10 major markets in which building security provider Kastle Systems tracks this data.1 Trends suggest a significant rebound by this summer.

Figure 1: Office Occupancy During the Pandemic

chart showing office occupancy during pandemic
Source: CDC, Kastle Systems, "Back to Work Barometer", Q2 2021.
Note: Occupancy data is indexed (February 2020 = 100).

With all adults eligible for vaccinations as of April 19, the projected timeline for all willing adults to receive the vaccine is late June. Preliminary results from CBRE’s most recent Occupier Sentiment Survey suggest a corresponding rebound in office occupancy levels by Q3 2021, when 45% of U.S. respondents expect their offices will fully reopen.

Figure 2: Percentage of Office-Using Jobs Eligible for Vaccine

chart showing percentage of office-using jobs eligible for the vaccine

Source: New York Times, CDC, CBRE Research, Q2 2021.

Companies are not waiting to make long-term real estate decisions. Since November 2020, gateway markets have seen new tenants looking for office space rebound to pre-pandemic levels. This is especially encouraging since gateway markets were the hardest-hit areas for office use during the crisis.

Figure 3: Gross Additions to Tenants in the Market for Gateway Markets

bar chart showing gross additions to tenants in the market for gateway markets

Source: CBRE Research, Q2 2021.
Note: Gross additions are indexed (March 2020 = 100).
1 Kastle Systems’ aggregate data from its monitored facilities in the Austin, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Jose and Washington, D.C. metropolitan areas.

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