New York City Recovery Index: March 15

Tracking NYC's economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic

Editor's note: Below you'll find the week 32 release of the NYC Recovery Index, originally published March 17, 2021. Visit the NYC Recovery index homepage for the latest data.

New York City’s economic recovery reversed course during the week of March 6 and declined for the first time in five weeks. The correction could largely be attributed to a rise in unemployment claims. New York City also experienced smaller positive movements in subway ridership, COVID-19 case rates, and rental vacancies compared to previous weeks. 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 55.1 out of a total score of 100, according to the New York City Recovery Index, a joint project between Investopedia and NY1. Although the index decreased three points from the prior week, it is still at one of the highest scores of the year and is at the same level as two weeks ago. However, one year into the pandemic, New York City’s economic recovery is only a little more than halfway back to early March 2020 levels.

COVID-19 Hospitalizations Decline

The number of New York City COVID-19 hospitalizations decreased week-over-week, making the previous week’s increase in cases seem like an anomaly. New York City reported an average of 252 hospitalizations per day for the week of March 6, down from the 302 average daily hospitalizations the previous week. The seven-day average now sits at a level similar to what was seen in December. New York City recorded a total of 785,000 cases and 30,366 deaths as of March 16.

Case numbers will be an important factor to watch as vaccine distribution continues throughout the country. New York has so far administered 6.6 million doses statewide, according to the CDC. The state’s vaccination rate places it 45th among the nation’s 59 states, municipalities, and territories, according to VeryWell Health. Approximately 17% of eligible adults have received both vaccine doses in New York. The state is on pace to achieve 70% vaccination by July 2021, placing it 12th out of the 59 states, municipalities, and territories.

Unemployment Increases

Although 6,322 fewer people filed first-time unemployment claims during the week of March 6 compared to the previous week, the year-over-year unemployment rate increased because there was a much higher number of filings for this equivalent week in 2020. Specifically, the year-over-year unemployment rate is now 218% higher than what it was last year, down from being 81% higher last week.

New York City reported a 12.6% unemployment rate for January, higher than the statewide rate of 8.8% and above the nationwide rate of 6.3%. The recently passed American Rescue Plan could help offset some of the economic burden by providing eligible Americans with $1,400 in stimulus checks and $300 weekly unemployment checks through next September.

Home Sales Remain Stagnant

During the week of March 6, the percentage of pending home sales, or homes in contract, remained flat week-over-week. There were 656 home sales during the week of march 6, representing a 61% year-over-year increase, the same level experienced the previous week, according to data from StreetEasy. Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens all had year-over-year increases of 66%, 68%, and 53%, respectively. Only Manhattan saw negative home buying movement week-over-week, with Queens and Brooklyn offsetting the decline.

Vacant Rentals Decline

New York City’s rental market continues to be more negatively impacted by the pandemic, but the percentage of vacancies has continued to drop week-over-week. The number of rental vacancies in New York City declined week-over-week by 1,036 to 35,274 during the week of March 6, according to data from StreetEasy. Nonetheless, the number of available rental units is still about 40% greater than what it would normally be this time of year.   

As New York City continues its economic recovery, the rental market will be worth watching to see if there is an influx of people who return to the city in summer 2021 to counterbalance the hundreds of thousands of departures in 2020.

Subway Ridership Still Improving

Subway ridership saw a slight bump during the week of March 6 as the rolling seven-day average was approximately 65% less than last year’s average, compared to 66% less the week earlier. The MTA reported that about 1.56 million New York City riders used public transport during the week of March 6, marking the fifth consecutive week of positive movement. MTA officials are considering limiting service given the shrinking revenue it expects to receive due to reduced ridership. The MTA already took advantage of the limited service it provided in 2020 by increasing speed limits at 64 locations across the transit system.

Restaurant Reservations Decline

Restaurant reservations had a moderate decline during the week of March 6, as the estimated number of seated diners was 77% lower than a year ago, compared to 76% lower the previous week, according to data from OpenTable. Restaurant reservations are starting to creep back to late summer/fall 2020 levels after indoor dining bans were partially lifted in February. 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. The industry is looking to the federal government for aid and will receive $25 billion through the American Rescue Plan.

Article Sources
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  1. CDC. "COVID Data Tracker."

  2. New York State. "NYS Economy Added 29,400 Private Sector Jobs in January 2021."

  3. The Wall Street Journal. "MTA Officials Weigh Whether to Cut New York City Subway Service."

  4. The City. "MTA Taps Need for Speed in Subways by Expanding Limits on Tracks."

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