Editor's note: Below you'll find the week 28 release of the NYC Recovery Index, originally published Feb. 16, 2021. Visit the NYC Recovery index homepage for the latest data.
New York City’s economic recovery rebounded slightly during the week of Feb. 6 as unemployment claims declined and home sales took a positive turn. However, the city is still less than halfway back to pre-pandemic levels and has a lot of room to grow before things normalize. New York City’s economic recovery will largely depend on how quickly vaccine distribution and development can occur citywide, as this will affect all metrics in the index.
New York City’s recovery stands at 44.1 out of a total score of 100, according to the New York City Recovery Index, a joint project between Investopedia and NY1. The index increased 1.1 points from the prior week, but still hovers at August levels. Eleven months into the pandemic, New York City’s economic recovery remains less than halfway back to early March 2020 levels.
COVID-19 Hospitalizations Stabilize
The number of New York City hospitalizations remained nearly the same as the previous week with an average of 336 hospitalizations per day for the week of Feb. 6, compared to the 340 average daily hospitalizations the previous week. The high caseload is 10 times the figure reported on Sept. 26. New York City recorded a total of 676,000 cases and 28,428 deaths as of Feb. 16.
Case numbers will be an important factor to watch as vaccine distribution continues throughout the country. New York expanded vaccine eligibility to people with underlying comorbidities like obesity, pregnancy, heart conditions, and weakened immune systems.
New York has so far administered 3.1 million doses statewide, according to the CDC. The state’s vaccination rate places it at No. 22 among the nation’s 50 states and Washington, D.C., according to VeryWell. About 18% of eligible adults have received both vaccine doses in New York.
Unemployment Levels Decline
During the week of Feb. 6, nearly 6,834 fewer New Yorkers filed unemployment insurance claims compared to the previous week. Approximately 23,451 New Yorkers filed for unemployment during the week of Feb. 6, representing a smaller year-over-year percentage increase (302%) compared to the previous week (396%).
The Biden administration’s proposed $1.9 trillion relief plan includes distributing an additional $1,400 in stimulus checks to Americans to help offset the economic burden faced by individuals across the country, as well as $400 in weekly unemployment checks through next September. However, Senate Republicans have advanced a smaller stimulus plan that would cut the direct stimulus payments to $1,000.
Home Sales Start to Improve
During the week of Feb. 6, pending home sales, or homes in contract, improved for the first time after three consecutive weeks of declines. There were 536 home sales during the week of Feb. 6, up from 520 sales the previous week. This represents a larger year-over-year percentage increase (32%) compared to the previous week (27%), according to data from StreetEasy. Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens all have year-over-year increases of 51%, 34%, and 10%, respectively.
The housing market has been in full swing since the pandemic started as people look to move into larger spaces as they work from home. The median price for a single-family home in the U.S. rose 14.9% year-over-year to $315,900 during the fourth quarter of 2020, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). This was the biggest surge since 1990.
Rental Market Continues to Recover
New York City’s rental market continued to see a small improvement as apartment vacancies dropped for the third consecutive week. The number of rental vacancies in New York City dropped week-over-week to 36,013 during the week of Feb. 6, down from 36,937 the week prior, according to data from StreetEasy. Nonetheless, the number of available rental units is still more than 40% greater than what it would normally be this time of year.
New York City has not seen a hit to its real estate market this large since the 2008 financial crisis. But signs of improvement are becoming clearer, especially in Manhattan and Brooklyn, where lease signings have seen their highest surge in the past 13 years due to a drop in net effective median rent, according to Douglas Elliman. The median rental price in January in Manhattan and Brooklyn was 2,812 and 2,472, respectively.
Subway Ridership Continues to Dip
Subway ridership declined for the second week in a row during the week of Feb. 6 as 1.48 million New York City riders used public transport. The rolling seven-day average was approximately 72% less than last year’s average, up from 70% less the prior week, according to data from the MTA. Subway ridership typically increases in the spring in New York City and the year-over-year gap may become more drastic if the use of public transportation continues to be hampered due to scheduling and safety concerns related to COVID-19. The MTA said it will start running the subway longer into the night, closing the system for cleaning only from 2 to 4 a.m., instead of from 1 to 5 a.m.
Restaurants Still Struggling
Restaurant reservations decreased as the industry continues to suffer from record reservation lows. During the week of Feb. 6, the estimated number of seated diners was 92% lower than a year ago, compared to 91% lower the previous week, according to data from OpenTable. Reservations are near the lows of late-March and early-April, in large part due to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Dec. 14 restriction on indoor dining. The governor allowed restaurants to reopen indoor dining at 25% capacity on Feb. 11. Future reservations in the city will depend largely on a decline in COVID-19 cases and warmer weather as many diners still prefer outdoor seating during the pandemic.