51.5

The latest reading of the New York City Recovery Index out of a possible score of 100.

A continuing surge in pending home sales in Brooklyn and Manhattan helped lift New York City’s overall economic recovery last week, but stubbornly high first-time unemployment claims continue to stifle meaningful growth in the NYC Recovery Index, a joint project between Investopedia and NY1.

The index measures 51.5 out of 100, a slight increase from the prior week, but still shows that the city is only halfway back to pre-pandemic levels.

While the New York City Recovery Index gained 5.5 points in the past week, several key indicators remain depressed. Job losses continue at alarming levels, subway usage remains very low, and restaurant reservations remain stagnant.

New COVID-19 Hospitalizations Remain Steady

New hospitalizations for COVID-19 have remained level for several weeks, which is a good indication that residents are taking precautions as they venture out of their apartments and safely engage in more social activities. There was an average of 23 new daily COVID-19 related hospitalizations last week, and case counts remain the highest in the Northern Bronx and Queens.

NYC public schools have delayed their partial in-person reopenings until October 1, which may be playing a part in keeping new cases low. Some businesses are reopening their offices to parts of their workforce, but new hospitalizations have yet to spike as a result. That’s a good sign.

Unemployment Rises

Stubbornly high unemployment has been one of the key factors holding back the city’s overall economic recovery. While New York’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell 3.9% from July to August as many temporarily laid-off workers were rehired, initial weekly unemployment claims continue to grow, as New York City saw a 743% year-over-year increase in unemployment claims last week.

 41,463 New Yorkers filed for first-time unemployment claims in the past week, an increase of 4,998 from the week prior. Layoffs continue to grow in the leisure and hospitality industries, most notably in restaurants, bars and hotels.

Pending Home Sales Rise

Pending homes sales (homes under contract) continue to increase, dispelling the myth that New Yorkers are abandoning the city. Pending home sales are up 37% from a year ago with 435 homes going into contract last week, according to StreetEasy. All boroughs saw an increase in sales last week, with Brooklyn continuing to lead buying activity with a 42% year-over-year rise. Pending sales in Manhattan climbed 37% from last year, while Queens saw a 7% increase.

Subway Usage Increases Slightly

Subway usage increased slightly last week, bouncing back from a post-labor day slump, but is still almost 30% below levels from the same week a year ago. The delay of the partial return of public school students is keeping subway activity at depressed levels. Those numbers will improve on October 1 when some of the city’s 1.3 million students return to in-person learning. 

Commuter traffic into the city also remains at depressed levels, but has been rising as more offices open on a limited basis. LIRR was down an average of 69% this last week compared with the same day-of-week-specific monthly averages for 2019, according to the MTA. Similarly, Metro North ridership during this period was down 73%.

Restaurant Reservations

Restaurant reservations, as measured by OpenTable, increased slightly last week, but are still down 77% from a year ago. Indoor dining begins at 25% capacity with other health-related restrictions on September 30, which will help boost this indicator, but restaurants will still only be operating at 50% capacity, at best. As the weather cools, outdoor dining will be more challenging for restaurants that currently offer it, and according to the NYC Hospitality Alliance, only 30% of the city’s restaurants currently do.