Editor's note: Below you'll find the week 30 release of the NYC Recovery Index, originally published Mar. 2, 2021. Visit the NYC Recovery index homepage for the latest data.
New York City’s economic recovery trended upward for the third consecutive week, surpassing the halfway mark for the first time in two months. Improvements were seen in every measure, with considerable growth in home sales, restaurant reservations, and employment. The continuation of New York City’s recovery will largely depend on vaccination rates and how quickly the city’s businesses are allowed to fully reopen.
New York City’s recovery stands at 55.5 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 7.2 points from the prior week and is at one of its strongest levels of the new year. However, one year into the pandemic, New York City’s economic recovery is still only halfway back to early March 2020 levels.
COVID-19 Hospitalizations Still Falling
The number of New York City hospitalizations further decreased week-over-week as the city reported an average of 280 hospitalizations per day for the week of Feb. 20, down from the 327 average daily hospitalizations the previous week. The seven-day average now sits at a level not seen since Dec. 28 and, like much of the country, is trending in a positive direction. New York City recorded a total of 729,000 cases and 29,408 deaths as of March 2.
Case numbers will be an important factor to watch as vaccine distribution continues throughout the country. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization to Johnson & Johnson's single-dose vaccine on Feb. 27. The federal government plans to distribute 100 million doses of the vaccine by the end of June, starting with 4 million this week. Together with the vaccines provided by Pfizer and Moderna, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine will make it possible for every American who wants a vaccine to be inoculated by the summer. Moreover, Novavax’s CEO said it believes the company’s vaccine will receive clearance from the FDA by early May, bringing the number of available vaccines in the U.S. to four.
New York has so far administered 4.5 million doses statewide, according to the CDC. The state’s vaccination rate places it 38th among the nation’s 59 states, municipalities, and territories, according to VeryWell Health. About 12% of eligible adults have received both vaccine doses in New York. The state is on pace to achieve 70% vaccination by Sept. 2021, making it one of the last states to do so.
Unemployment numbers for New York City have decreased significantly week-over-week as 3,959 fewer New Yorkers filed for unemployment during the week of Feb. 20. The year-over-year unemployment rate now sits at just over two times (235%) what it was last year, down from being 308% higher last week.
Many of the jobs lost in New York City were in the arts and culture industries. Jobs in arts, entertainment, and recreation fell by 66% last year from 2019, according to the state Comptroller's Office. This was the largest decline among the city’s economic sectors and erased a decade of gains in what was once New York City’s most vibrant industries. New York City lost a total of 577,000 jobs in 2020 due to the pandemic, according to the Mayor’s office.
Over the weekend, the House of Representatives passed President Biden's $1.9 trillion relief plan, which 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. The bill will now go to the Senate for a vote. New York City, which has been suffering from a loss of tax revenue, stands to receive $5.6 billion as part of the Biden administration’s proposed $350 billion of aid to states and cities that is in the bill.
A Bump in Home Sales
During the week of Feb. 20, pending home sales, or homes in contract, improved for the third week in a row. There were 538 home sales during the week of Feb. 20, representing a significantly larger year-over-year percentage increase (71%) compared to the previous week (51%), according to data from StreetEasy. Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens all have year-over-year increases of 83%, 73%, and 57%, respectively. All three boroughs saw positive home buying movement week-over-week for the second consecutive week.
Rental Market Also Sees Improvement
New York City’s rental market continues to be more negatively impacted by the pandemic, but the number of vacancies has decreased week-over-week. The number of rental vacancies in New York City declined week-over-week to 35,599 during the week of Feb. 20, down from 36,153 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.
As many New Yorkers left the city for the suburbs or other locations with lower costs of living, rental prices in New York City have dropped. Rents in New York City fell at the fastest year-over-year pace on record, dropping 15.5% in Manhattan and 8.6% in both Brooklyn and Queens, according to the StreetEasy Price Index. However, the cheap rent has now attracted bargain hunters to the city, helping the rental market recover somewhat.
Ridership Still Increasing
Subway ridership increased for the second consecutive week during the week of Feb. 20 as 1.35 million New York City riders used public transport. The rolling seven-day average was approximately 66% less than last year’s average, down from 68% less the prior week, according to data from the MTA. An increase in subway ridership week-over-week is not typically expected this time of year, as this is normally the time ridership hits seasonal lows. However, ridership is expected to increase measurably now that public middle schools have resumed partial in-person learning. Nonetheless, MTA officials are considering limiting service given the shrinking revenue it expects to receive due to reduced ridership. The MTA has so far avoided major cuts to its service because it received $8 billion in federal COVID-19 relief and $2.9 billion of federal borrowing to cover operating costs.
Restaurant Reservations Climb
Restaurant reservations improved significantly as New York City allowed restaurants to offer indoor dining at a reduced capacity. During the week of Feb. 20, the estimated number of seated diners was 77% lower than a year ago, compared to 90% lower the previous week, according to data from OpenTable. On Valentine’s Day, specifically, reservations were just 56% less than they were the same day in 2020, giving restaurateurs new hope for a recovery. Restaurant reservations are starting to creep back to late summer/fall 2020 levels following a rough winter. Future reservations in the city will depend largely on a decline in COVID-19 cases and warmer weather since some diners still prefer to eat outdoors.