In the fourth quarter, we saw 20% fewer new prospects in the market in the same period last year.
In first quarter lead activity for new deals is equally slow. In our market, some of the largest increases in availability last year were recorded in the regions that had the lowest numbers to start, in Manhattan and Washington DC. The availability rates in these markets are around 10%.
New Jersey has demonstrated some resilience, but vacancy is still around 20%, and asking rents fell by about $2 per square foot during 2008. Suburban Philadelphia, Westchester County, New York, and Fairfield County, Connecticut have vacancy rates in the mid to high-teens.
Sublease space is playing an increasing role in the office space markets. Our own portfolio remained stable in this regard where we have consistently had anywhere from 4% to 5% of our inventory available for sublet for several years.
In some of our suburban markets, sublease space increased by 25% to 45% in 2008, the exception with Central New Jersey, where the space available for sublease decreased by 40% during the year.
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