Large U.S. Cities Struggle to Meet Freelancer Demand for Coworking Space

A recent shared workspace market study conducted by CoworkingCafe—a major U.S. listing service for flexible office space—called attention to a supply shortage in the country’s most dynamic office markets.

Operators and property managers have been quick to respond to the lifestyle changes brought about by the pandemic. However, the size and pace of growth of the addressable market since 2019 as compared to the current supply suggests that there’s plenty of room for further conversion projects, as well as fresh players to enter the field.

Highlights:

  • Despite the sharp increase in self-employed professionals, most American cities still lack sufficient coworking facilities, averaging just three flexible offices for every 1,000 independent contractors.
  • In Newark, N.J.; Stockton, Calif.; and Nashville, Tenn., the number of freelancers has increased by more than 50 percent in three years.
  • Pittsburgh had the highest capacity with 12 shared workspaces for every 1,000 freelancers. Irvine, Calif., was runner-up with 11.
  • The Southern and Western United States experienced the most growth in freelance contractors during the last three years at 8 and 6 percent, respectively.
  • The number of remote employees increased the most in the Northeast —a whopping 280 percent since 2019.

The Pandemic & its Backwash: Coworking Spaces Struggle to Keep up with Demand

Although the pandemic put freelance and remote work on afterburners, these trends have been on the upswing since 2010. Specifically, by 2021, 6 million freelance contractors and an additional 27 million remote employees were operating across the U.S.—a 207 percent overall growth in home-office workers since 2019.

Accordingly, the growth in flexible space was also significant, although the market still has a long way to go to be able to meet the demand that continues to grow by the day. For instance, quoting a JLL study from 2010 and the latest CommercialEdge data, CoworkingCafe reported a tenfold increase in the total number of flexible workspaces throughout the last 12 years — from roughly 12 million to more than 120 million square feet available today across 5,800 U.S. locations. Even so, on average, there are still only three flexible working spots for every 1,000 freelancers in U.S. metros with populations of at least 300,000 residents.

Hungriest Cities for Coworking Space

Of the 20 fastest-growing freelancing markets, several (El Paso, Texas; Anaheim, Calif.; Omaha, Neb.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Stockton, Calif.) were neck-and-neck with only one coworking space on the market per 1,000 freelance workers. In Stockton’s case, the supply-demand imbalance was largely due to an especially rapid transition: Today, there are 69 percent more independent contractors in the Central Valley metro than there were in 2019. That’s the second-fastest growth nationwide, following only Newark, NJ’s whopping 85 percent in the same period.

The next set of cities weren’t much further ahead either: Fort Worth, Texas; Honolulu, Hawaii; Wichita, Kan.; Riverside, Calif.; and Newark, N.J., had only two coworking spaces per 1,000 freelancers. Likewise, Milwaukee; Indianapolis; Oakland, Calif.; and Nashville, Tenn., also made the top 20 fastest-growing markets for freelancing with an average of three shared workspaces per 1,000 self-employed workers. Similarly, Raleigh, N.C.; Detroit; Memphis, Tenn.; Cleveland; and Dallas also struggle to accommodate the growing demand with four coworking locations for every 1,000 freelancers.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati was one notable exception with seven coworking spaces per 1,000 freelancers. That said, the Queen City barely made the top 20 in terms of its market growth with a (still impressive) 25 percent uptick in its number of independent contractors since 2019.

About the Author

Balazs Szekely
Balazs Szekely is a qualified journalist with extensive experience as a real-estate writer for several Yardi publications, covering a wide range of market studies and real estate news.

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