• State and Local Referendums Approved, Office Use Drops as Cases Increase, New Jobless Claims Drop

    State and Local Referendums Approved, Office Use Drops as Cases Increase, New Jobless Claims Drop

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    In many states across the country, voters also faced state and local measures to raise taxes or approve transit plans. (Phil Roeder/Flickr)
    In many states across the country, voters also faced state and local measures to raise taxes or approve transit plans. (Phil Roeder/Flickr)

    State and Local Referendums Approved

     

    While the country focused on the presidential election results, voters across the country decided on state and local initiative that could have implications for commercial real estate.

    In Austin, Texas, voters approved investing $7.1 billion into Project Connect, a long-range transit plan that includes a downtown tunnel, a light rail system and expanded bus service. They also approved a $460 million bond issue for improving pedestrian and biking networks.

    These come after similar attempts to pass such measures in 2000 and 2014 failed. Despite suffering during the pandemic, Austin remains high on the commercial real estate world’s list as a top place to invest.

    The Texas capital appeared in the No. 2 spot on Urban Land Institute’s “overall real estate prospects” ranking in its annual Emerging Trends report. Austin traded spots this year with Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina.

    New Jersey voters fully legalized marijuana use and possession a decade after medical-use was approved. Regulations and rules still need to be put in place before retail shops and growing operations can open.

    That could take a while. In Massachusetts, the first dispensary opened two years after voters approved the referendum in 2016.

    Arizona voters not only gave the state to President-elect Biden, they approved a 3.5% surcharge on individuals earning more than $250,000 annually and joint filers earning more than $500,000. The surcharge is expected to raise $1 billion to raise teacher salaries and pay for other school initiatives.

    Proponents pitched voters on the better schools would be better for the economy, which has been drawing in companies and people from California. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce fought it, arguing that the total 8% income tax rate on would be among the highest in the country.

    Still, better paid teachers may help them better afford housing. Arizona has one of the most severe shortages of affordable housing in the country, according the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

    Meanwhile, Florida voters approved increasing the state minimum wage to $15 per hour over six years. That is expected to help the service industry, which has been hit the hardest by the pandemic.

    Rising Coronavirus Cases Affect Office Use

     

    Many large cities had fewer people going into the office, according to one building security firm's count, as coronavirus cases rose across the country.

    Fewer employees went into the office in nearly all of the 20 largest metropolitan areas where Falls Church, Virginia-based security firm Kastle Systems has clients.

    The Connecticut region of Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk showed the largest increase in working headed into the office at 4% through Nov. 4 followed by Charlotte, North Carolina, at 2% and the Houston area at 1%.

    An 18% drop in Washington, D.C., Kastle’s largest market, may have been affected by the expectations of unrest with elections.

    Miami still leads in total office usage at more than 40%. Dallas is second.

    Kastle collects anonymous employee data from buildings where it provides access control technology for workplaces. While the data only uses entry information for office workers for a short period and captured from one security company, it provides a look at how businesses are dealing with the pandemic, a situation that's constantly changing.

    Daily confirmed cases now are breaking records. Johns Hopkins University reported 144,133 new cases Thursday, another daily record acros the United States.

     

    New Jobless Claims Drop

     

    Last week, 709,000 people filed for unemployment, a new pandemic low, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

    That’s down from the 751,000 reported the previous week. Continuing claims, a category that represents those on unemployment, dropped 436,000 to 6.8 million.

    Economists note that more than 21 million people are still using some form of unemployment benefit.

    Illinios had the highest new claims, which has been the case for several weeks.