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TAMPA, FL-With market fundamentals continuing the positive trends seen during 2006, the office sector thrived in Q1 which is expected to continue throughout the year, according to a Colliers Arnold Tampa Bay Q1 office market report.

The strongest economic indicator is the healthy employment picture. The Tampa area experienced an unemployment rate of 3.3% for February, which compares to a 3.4% rate for February 2006. The national rate was 4.9% in February compared to a 5.1% for the same month a year ago.

Rental rates in the office sector reached an all-time high during the first quarter with an average asking rental rate of $20.55 per sf, according to the CB Richard Ellis Q1 office market report. Rates in Hillsborough County increased 3.9% while rates in Pinellas County rose 1.2%.

Sales in the office market have remained steady since the first of the year, with sales totaling $131 million at an average rate of $133 per sf. Of particular note was the February sale of the 672,022-sf Koger Center to the Trump Group for $93.325 million, according to the CB Richard Ellis report.

“Office investments mirror the retail market of 18 months ago,” says CB Richard Ellis senior associate-private client group Ginger Gelsheimer. “Core assets are continuing to see cap rates compress and investors are paying top dollar for vacancy. It is difficult for investors to find a real value-add deal in the market.”

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