Brooklyn Boro

Glass Half Empty in Still Depopulated NYC Office Towers

Just 47% of workers are in business districts on any given weekday — dashing any hopes for a fall return to the workplace.

November 17, 2022 Greg David and Suhail Bhat, THE CITY
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Will Workers Return in January?

The latest numbers on office occupancy dashed hopes that the number of workers in New York’s still-lagging business districts would increase as summer turned to fall.

The Kastle Systems tracker of average weekday office occupancy in the region has been stuck at 47% for weeks. The share of workers showing up on an average weekday in Manhattan offices is believed to be a little higher, with the Partnership for New York City’s survey of large employers in September showing that 49% of office workers were at their desks.

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However, the Partnership also found only 9% of workers came to the office five days a week — a number that would likely be even lower if not for the big banks and Wall Street firms that have required full-time attendance.

While that’s slightly higher than cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, DC, it’s still more than 10% below Houston, which has consistently led the nation in return to office occupancy.

Pfizer, the giant drug company famous for its COVID vaccine, with global headquarters on East 42nd Street, illustrates the issue. Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla disclosed at last week’s Paley International Council Summit that one-third of his employees have not returned to the office at all since the pandemic shutdown. He said that beginning in January, the company will require all U.S. workers to start showing up, at least part of the time.

“I started to worry we were going to lose the DNA of our company, the feeling of family,” Bourla said. “For our workforce, people with office-type jobs, we are asking them, and will start enforcing a two to three days” weekly attendance requirement.

As inflation ebbs, New York remains less affected

New York continues to suffer less from inflation than the rest of the country, according to the latest local Consumer Price Index data released Thursday.

Nationally, prices rose 7.7% from the same time last year, which was less than expected and less than in previous months.

In the New York area, the CPI increased 6% over the last year, almost two percentage points below the national rate. It ranks 18th among 22 metropolitan areas in the country on the inflation measure.

In the past year, energy prices rose 15% in the region, food prices were up 8.6% and prices for all items less food and energy increased 4.9%.

At the same time, the monthly Elliman report on rents shows that rents had stabilized in Manhattan and Brooklyn, which should help reduce inflation in the coming months.

THE CITY is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.

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