The New York City Recovery Index: February 28

Tracking NYC's economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic

Editor's note: Below you'll find the week 78 release of the NYC Recovery Index, originally published March 01, 2022. Visit the NYC Recovery index homepage for the latest data.

New York City’s economic recovery index surged in another positive week, as the score shot up from 82 to 88 for the week ended Feb. 19. This is the closest the overall index score has been to 90 since the week of Dec. 11, 2021, before the omicron wave. Although there was a slight dip in subway ridership and rental vacancies, COVID-19 hospitalizations continued to decline, restaurant reservations rose, the home sales market is still running hotter than it was in 2019, and unemployment claims are now below the 2019 rolling average. 

On Sunday, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced that the state-wide mask requirement in schools will end on Wednesday, March 2. New York City will wait a bit longer, with mayor Eric Adams announcing that a final decision will be made on school mask mandates this Friday. “If we see no unforeseen spikes and our numbers continue to show a low level of risk, New York City will remove the indoor mask mandate for public school children, effective next Monday, March 7,” said Adams. Additionally, the mayor mentioned that if COVID-19 cases continue to remain low and there are “no surprises,” the requirement to show proof of vaccination at indoor public spaces such as restaurants, bars, and grocery stores, could also be lifted next week.

New York City’s recovery stands at a score of 88 out of 100, according to the New York City Recovery Index, a joint project between Investopedia and NY1. Nearly two years into the pandemic, NYC’s economic recovery is over four-fifths of the way back to early March 2020 levels.

COVID-19 Hospitalizations Fall

COVID-19 hospitalization rates continued to fall for the fifth week in a row, returning to levels not seen since before the omicron wave hit New York City. The seven-day average is now at 56 hospitalizations per day, which is 38 fewer than last week, back to rates similar to those in November of 2021. 

Of the declining COVID-19 cases in the area, the CDC continues to project 100% of new cases in the New York region (along with New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) are related to omicron. A total of 2,278,068 cases and 39,811 deaths were recorded in New York City as of March 1, while 76.9% of New York State’s population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to NYC Health data.

Unemployment Claims Back to Pre-Pandemic Levels

Unemployment claims decreased by 960 claims for the week of Feb. 19, bumping the index score up from 95 to 104. The change in claims over the same weeks in 2019 was lower by comparison, which raised the index score. Now that the score has surpassed 100, the UI claims rate is in line with pre-pandemic levels and has fully recovered. The UI claims rate is expected to remain stable, unless there are any new variants or restrictions. There were a total of 5,410 claims in New York City for the week ended Feb. 19, while the rolling average for the same weeks in 2019 only decreased by 416 claims to 5,660.

Home Sales Surge Higher

Pending home sales had a hugely positive week, as the index score shot up from 164 to 183 for the week of Feb. 19. The increase was caused by home sales rising week-over-week from 604 to 669, while the 2019 rolling average over the same period decreased from 368 to 366. Despite the slight dip in home sales last week, it is now back to running 80% higher than 2019 levels, which is the fourth-highest rate in the history of the index. By borough, Brooklyn shot ahead of Manhattan and Queens with a 114% increase in home sales compared to 2019 levels. Manhattan and Queens followed behind at 74% and 70%, respectively.

Rental Market Unchanged

The rental market remained relatively unchanged for the week of Feb. 19, with 12,794 rentals on the market in New York City, which is 66 more than last week. The slight increase in the vacancy rate did not change the rental measure index or the rental market. While the vacancy rate is nowhere near highs when the pandemic started, or lows last year, the rate will still need more substantial increases to be in line with 2019 levels for this time of year.

Subway Ridership Dips Slightly

Subway ridership experienced a slight dip as of Feb. 19, with the seven-day trailing average back to 44% below 2019 levels, from 42% below last week. However, the slight decline in ridership is not a substantial change for one week. Ridership has continued to stagnate around 40% below pre-pandemic levels, and has not surpassed that level since the week of Nov. 27, 2021. As of Feb. 19, the MTA reported a trailing seven-day average of 2.61 million riders.

Restaurant Reservations Continue to Climb

Restaurant reservations continued to rise for the week of Feb. 19, increasing from 49% to 46.5% below 2019 levels this week, getting even closer to the threshold of 40% below pre-pandemic levels before the omicron wave hit. Although the increase is not as substantial as it was last week, it still pushed the index score up, and shows that New Yorkers are still eating out despite cold winter weather. 

Comparing New York City restaurant reservations with those in other states, it becomes clear that reservation recovery rates in the state of New York and New York City still lags behind those of Connecticut and New Jersey. In fact, both New Jersey and Connecticut reservations have fully recovered and are performing above pre-pandemic levels, at 24% and 33% above 2019 levels, respectively. Restaurant reservations in NYC have not made a full recovery, and are yet to see reservations above 2019 levels, which shows how much more the city’s restaurant scene has been impacted by COVID-19 compared to its neighboring states.

Article Sources
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  1. New York State. “Governor Hochul Announces Plan to End State Mask Requirement in Schools Starting March 2.

  2. City of New York. “Mayor Adams’ Statement on Mask Mandates in Schools, Vaccine Mandates Across NYC.

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