A recent report from real estate company CBRE ranked the top 30 tech cities in terms of job growth and office rents, and Seattle came in at number 12. Some of the usual suspects sit atop the ranks, such as San Francisco, Silicon Valley, New York and Austin. But also ahead of Seattle in terms of tech sector job growth are places like Phoenix, Charlotte and Indianapolis.
Does this mean Seattle’s run is over? It doesn’t seem to be that way as Seattle’s tech job growth over the last three years is just a little behind the pace set in the previous couple years. A lot of these other cities haven’t had much of a tech economy in the past, so their numbers are going to look stronger than Seattle, a veteran of the tech scene. Organize the rankings by the number of tech jobs added in the last three years, and Seattle would come in at number five, behind Silicon Valley, Toronto, San Francisco, and New York.
The report also notes that Seattle is at full employment, so adding a bunch more tech jobs does not seem likely without more people participating in the labor force or an increase in immigration.
From 2013 to 2015, Seattle’s tech sector added 19,524 jobs, for a growth rate of 17.6 percent. That is down slightly from 2012 to 2014, when there was an 18.4 percent increase in tech jobs.
Overall, the tech sector has been a boon to the U.S. economy. According to CBRE, the industry is responsible for creating 780,000 new jobs at a 7.3 percent growth rate over the last five years.
Office rents in Seattle aren’t climbing nearly as fast as they are in other tech hubs. Rents here increased 5.2 percent from the second quarter of 2014 to the second quarter of this year, ranking 23rd among the top 30. Four cities saw rents jump more than 20 percent in the two-year period, and 19 markets saw at least 10 percent rent growth.
One trend keeping rents down locally is the construction boom adding new office supply all around the region. Seattle has 6.5 million square feet under construction right now, and that trails only New York, Silicon Valley and Dallas.
And companies are filling much of this new space. Seattle ranks third on the list in terms of net absorption, the number of square feet leased by companies minus what they give up if they move to new buildings, for example. Amazon has been gobbling up pretty much any building it can find. Other companies, like Big Fish Games, are growing their real estate footprints in Seattle as well.
It’s not just local companies growing in Seattle. More than 80 tech companies from around the world have established offices in the area.
Seattle still appears to have some room to grow in this cycle. The report lists some of the big tech hubs like San Francisco and Silicon Valley, New York and Boston as matured, meaning that rent increases are slowing, and the amount of vacant space isn’t trending too far in one direction or the other. But Seattle, along with places considered to be emerging tech hubs like Dallas, Denver, Pittsburgh and Raleigh, are still expanding, meaning new office buildings are getting built, rents are climbing at a healthy clip and the amount of vacant space is declining.
One potential sign of trouble observers tend to keep an eye on is sub-lease space, which is office space that companies have leased but put on the market. This can happen when fast-growing firms get too high on their own potential and lease more space than they need. This doesn’t appear to be a big problem in Seattle as opposed to other fast-growing real estate markets. Seattle has 1.5 million square feet of available sublease space, the same as Silicon Valley, but significantly less than New York and Dallas as well as several cities with a lot less space under construction.