We engage with multiple investors across the US on a regular basis, and one thing that is so prominently visible among the investors is a significant perception gap between what the media is saying about the economy and the commercial real estate market and the actual hard numbers and key performance indicators. The media is focused on recession risk, a systemic banking crisis, inflation, rising interest rates, and the prospect of upcoming waves of commercial real estate distress, while the actual metrics show a different story.
Let's start with GDP. The economy has generally been growing for the last two years, with economic growth at 2.1% last year and 1.1% annualized in the first quarter of 2023, which aligns with the consensus blue chip economic forecast for the full year of 2023, which is 1.2%. Despite the media's focus on an imminent recession, the consensus blue chip economic forecasts for both 2023 and 2024 remain positive.
Another key metric is job creation. The US has added jobs every month for the last 27 months, with 3 million more jobs in the US today than before the pandemic. In the first quarter of this year, the US added more than a million new jobs. Despite the media highlighting major layoffs by big companies, such as Meta, Google, and Microsoft, the number of first-time unemployment claims remains in the mid-200,000 range, well below the ten-year pre-pandemic average of 312,000. The unemployment rate has been locked in the mid-3% range for the last 13 months, which is at or near the record low of the last half-century. Almost every recession in the last 70 years has been preceded by a 50 basis point rise in the trailing three-month unemployment rate prior to the recession, and we just haven't seen that yet. The labor market is still very strong, so it's not signaling an imminent recession.
If you set aside all the noise, all the speculation about recession risk and inflation and interest rates, and just look at the numbers, the economy is actually doing pretty well. The same is true for most types of commercial real estate.
The average first-quarter apartment vacancy from 2016 to 2020 was 5%, and in the first quarter of 2023, the average vacancy was 5.2%, just 20 basis points higher. Apartments had 6.4% rent growth over the last year, outpacing the five-year pre-pandemic average of 4.4%. So even though apartment performance has softened, it's still comparable to how the sector was performing prior to the health crisis.
Multitenant retail has proven the five-year average vacancy for multi tenant retail before the health crisis was 5.9%, with rent growth of 2.7%. Comparatively, in the first quarter of this year, vacancy was 5.6%, with 5.5% rent growth. So from both a vacancy and rent growth perspective, multi tenant retail is outperforming. Industrial is also outperforming the pre-pandemic average with the most recent vacancy reading of 4%, compared to the pre-pandemic five-year average of 4.9%. Likewise, the industrial year-over-year rent growth was 16.6% in the first quarter of this year, compared to just 5.8% in the five years prior to the pandemic.
However, office properties are experiencing a disruption. The average office vacancy in the first quarter of 2023 was 16.8%, compared to the pre-pandemic first-quarter average vacancy of 13.1%. The average annual rent growth for offices between 2016 and 2020 was 3.1%, which is dramatically higher than the 0.7% office rent growth achieved in the last five year prior to the pandemic.
Therefore, it's important to gain an accurate understanding of the situation, it is crucial to consider hard data and key performance indicators instead of relying solely on media hype and speculation. Encouragingly, the GDP growth remains positive, job creation is robust, and most commercial real estate sectors are performing well. Nevertheless, the office market is encountering some obstacles, and these factors should be taken into account when making investment decisions. In summary, it is essential to maintain a balanced and informed viewpoint and thoroughly examine all available information before making investment decisions.