US apartment rents dropped in the first quarter and the vacancy rate remained at a record as unemployment near a 26-year high limited tenant demand.

Actual rents paid by tenants, known as effective rents, declined 1.5% from a year earlier, Reis Inc. said in a report today. Asking rents fell 1.6%, according to the New York-based property research firm. Vacancies were unchanged at 8 %, the highest level since 1980, when Reis began tracking the number, said Victor Calanog, director of research.

US rental demand has slumped as employers cut 8.4m jobs since the start of the recession in December 2007. The bigger drop in asking rents than effective rents in the first quarter signals that landlords are pricing their properties lower at the outset and minimising concessions, Calanog said.