The Census 2020 Impact on the Office Market and Economy

Posted on: Tuesday, February 13th, 2018, under Uncategorized.

Bob Samiiby Liz Berthelette, Director of Research NAI Hunneman. Liz is a seasoned CRE researcher with a penchant for maps, graphs & data; providing insights on the local Boston market and beyond.

Demographers and data geeks rejoice! Preparations are well underway for one of the largest data collection efforts in U.S. history; the decennial census. With 2020 just around the proverbial corner, it’s not surprising that the U.S. Census Bureau is already gearing up to take on this mammoth task. While the survey results provide invaluable insights on the nation’s population base and ever changing demographic profile, this undertaking has deeper implications for the U.S. economy and office market.

A look back at the most recent decennial Census, which took place in 2010, offers us key insight on what the future might hold. In a report published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2011, the impact of national employment was far from negligible. In fact, the number of temporary and intermittent workers hired to complete the 2010 Census actually muddied monthly employment trends during that year. Below are some key data takeaways from the BLS report:

1. Temporary/intermittent hiring totaled 564,000 workers
2. Soup-to-nuts the project took 30 months to complete
3. Peak hiring occurred in May of 2010
4. Temp employment declined by almost 100% by September of 2010

With that many new employees on the payroll it’s not surprising the General Services Administration (GSA) was also in need of commercial space. Accordingly, 12 Regional Census Centers and 494 Local Census Offices were established throughout the United States to temporarily house collection operations. Ultimately, this space acquisition program resulted in several million square feet of short-term office demand in 2010.

For the upcoming Census 2020 program, the GSA has released requirements for 245 short-term leases nationwide. The average size of these temporary offices ranges from 6,600 to 8,550 square feet, with up to 19 months of lease term. While this represents roughly half the number of requirements issued for the 2010 Census, additional U.S. office demand will likely surpass two million square feet on a temporary basis. When you factor in the need for several Regional Census Centers (RCC), which require a much larger footprint, this number is closer to 2.5 million square feet. We’re already starting to see the impact of the GSA’s latest space acquisition program. The administration’s first regional operation will be located at 1601 Market Street in Philadelphia; where a 37,500-square-foot lease was executed in November of 2017. The effect of the decennial census operations may only be provisional, but as history has shown us, it won’t go unnoticed.