Office Occupancy Returns To Pre-Omicron Peak, But Pre-Pandemic Figures A Distant Ship On The Horizon
Office occupancy is roughly where it was before the omicron variant of the coronavirus sent it plummeting late last year, but the return to the office is moving at a glacial pace compared with the rate of return to other pre-pandemic activities.
Office occupancy came in at 40.5% of pre-pandemic figures, according to the March 9 Kastle Back To Work Barometer, which measures occupancy in 10 of the nation's top office markets. With all 10 of the markets analyzed gaining in the most recent weekly report, the national average came up a hair short of the 40.6% recorded the first week of December 2021.
The latest occupancy total represents an uptick from March 2 when occupancy was at 38% and a surge compared with the last report in 2021 (Dec. 29) when a combination of the holidays and omicron took occupancy down to 17.5%.
The late December level wasn't much higher than the lowest level recorded since the beginning of the pandemic — in April 2020, occupancy dropped to 14.6% — or the last report of 2020 (Dec. 30) when occupancy was at 17%.
Texas cities report the highest return-to-office levels, according to Kastle, with metro Austin leading the way at 58.3%, Houston at 52.4% and Dallas at 50.7%. California metros still lag, with San Francisco at 29.4% and San Jose at 31%, though Los Angeles is near the national average at 38.4%.
Although a national average of more than 40% represents a relatively strong recovery compared with the depths of 2020 or the recent omicron scare, Kastle notes that other in-person activities are now much closer to their pre-pandemic participation levels.
Attendance at NBA games is at 93.8% of levels recorded at the beginning of March 2020, the report says, while travel through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints at airports is at 84.1% and movie box offices is at 81.1%.