- Leasing activity was stable in 2019, at roughly the same volume as in 2018.
- The West region exhibited the strongest leasing activity, with more than 100 million square feet (msf) leased for a fourth consecutive year.
- The tech industry once again dominated leasing activity, accounting for 27.6% of the major leases—up from 26.1% in 2018. Tech leasing totaled slightly less than leasing for the financial services, government and real estate combined.
- For a second consecutive year there were more than 25 large leases (over 400,000 sf) signed in 2019.
TOTAL LEASING WAS STABLE
2019 was another solid year for office leasing in the U.S. New leasing activity in the 91 office markets in the U.S. and Canada tracked by Cushman & Wakefield totaled 324.2 million square feet (msf), down slightly from the 336.5 msf leased in 2018 but roughly on par with the average of 331 msf leased from 2016 to 2018.
The pattern of leasing during the year was inconsistent. In the first half of 2019 new leasing totaled 174.9 msf—the second strongest six months of the past 18 years. In the second half of the year, however, leasing volume slowed to 149.2 msf, declining to approximately 68 msf in the fourth quarter—the slowest activity since the end of 2015.
Because leasing volume can be erratic from one quarter to the next, it is best to look at a moving average to gain a better idea of leasing activity trends. On a four-quarter moving average basis, the volume of new leasing was healthy in 2019, as it has been since 2017. This suggests that the slowdown in the second half of 2019 is not something to worry about, although leasing volumes will bear watching throughout 2020.
For a better understanding of the industry breakdown of 2019 leasing we analyzed the top 4,000 leases across the U.S. and Canada—a data set that includes slightly less than half (43%) of all the square footage leased in 2019.
An industry breakdown of leasing demonstrates the strength of the technology sector during 2019. The tech sector accounted for 27.6% of all leasing among the top transactions of the year. That’s roughly the same as the next three most active sectors combined: financial services (16.2%), government (6.2%) and real estate (5.8%).
It was also a strong year for big-tech leasing. Nearly one quarter (23.9%) of the square footage of tech leases signed last year was by the so-called “FAANG" companies (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google). That percentage is up from 20% in 2018. Another important component of tech leasing was the strong level of activity in the life sciences sector which includes biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. The life sciences sector captured roughly 13% of tech leasing.