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SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY, CA-Thanks in large part to job growth despite the recession, the office market here and in Riverside County remains one of the strongest in the country, according to third-quarter statistics compiled Grubb & Ellis that compare the local market to others nationwide.

The report says that while the office leasing and investment markets “have become temporarily unhinged” in much of the country, the Inland Empire office market was the only one in the country where the office vacancy rate decreased by more than one percentage point in the third quarter.

The Inland Empire’s performance is a stark contrast to the national office market, in which “absorption fell further into the red and rents continued to soften,” the report says.

The report attributes the Riverside-San Bernardino County region’s strong office performance to a strong local economy that has continued to prosper despite the national downturn. “With 30,000 new jobs created over the past 12 months, this is the fastest-growing large metro area in the nation,” the report says.

The overall office vacancy rate stood at 11.9% in the Inland Empire in the third quarter, the eighth-lowest in the nation, with Bakersfield, Calif. posting the lowest suburban rate, 9.3%. Vacancy rates in many of the country’s markets stand at 25% or more, including 28.2% in suburban San Francisco and 31.3% in Oklahoma City.

The Grubb & Ellis report notes that investors continue to acquire commercial real estate despite the weak leasing market because real estate has become “the least worst selection” in the eyes of many investors. Investors prefer class A properties with secure rent rolls, but they’re more and more willing to consider riskier properties just to remain in real estate, according to the report. Real estate should retain its attraction for investors if stock market returns continue at their current level overt the next few years, the report adds.

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