Editor's note: Below you'll find the week 31 release of the NYC Recovery Index, originally published March 8, 2021. Visit the NYC Recovery index homepage for the latest data.
New York City’s economic recovery continued its trend upward for the fourth consecutive week, reaching the highest point since the week of Jan. 2. The improvement could largely be attributed to a decline in year-over-year unemployment claims, though a slight bump in restaurant reservations and a decline in rental vacancies also contributed to the recovery. 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 movie theaters opened at a limited capacity on March 5, prompting the New York DMA weekend box office to surge 380% week-over-week
New York City’s recovery stands at 58.2 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 2.7 points from the prior week. 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 Reverse Course
The number of New York City hospitalizations increased week-over-week, reversing from the downward trend it had been experiencing. New York City reported an average of 302 hospitalizations per day for the week of Feb. 27, up from the 280 average daily hospitalizations the previous week. The seven-day average now sits at a level similar to what was seen in the beginning of the new year. New York City recorded a total of 753,000 cases and 29,823 deaths as of March 8.
Case numbers will be an important factor to watch as vaccine distribution continues throughout the country. New York has so far administered 5.2 million doses statewide, according to the CDC. The state’s vaccination rate places it 42nd among the nation’s 59 states, municipalities, and territories, according to VeryWell Health. Nearly 13% of eligible adults have received both vaccine doses in New York. The state is on pace to achieve 70% vaccination by Sept. 2021, placing it in the middle of the pack compared to the other states.
Although 5,906 more people filed first-time unemployment claims during the week of Feb. 27 compared to the previous week, the year-over-year unemployment rate declined because there was a much higher number of filings for this equivalent week in 2020. Specifically, the year-over-year unemployment rate is now 81% higher than what it was last year, down from being 235% higher last week.
Over the weekend, the Senate approved 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. However, there were some changes made to the bill, including shrinking the proposed $400 in weekly unemployment checks through next September to $300. New York City’s unemployment rate stands at 11.4% as of Dec. 2020. The bill must now pass the House of Representatives a second time, which is expected, before Biden signs it into law.
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.
Home Sales Dip
During the week of Feb. 27, the percentage of pending home sales, or homes in contract, dipped slightly. There were 655 home sales during the week of Feb. 27, representing a smaller year-over-year percentage increase (61%) compared to the previous week (71%), according to data from StreetEasy. Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens all had year-over-year increases of 89%, 44%, and 27%, respectively. Only Manhattan saw positive home buying movement week-over-week.
Rental Market Improves
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 34,238 during the week of Feb. 27, down from 35,599 the week prior, according to data from StreetEasy. Nonetheless, the number of available rental units is still about 10,000 apartments greater than what it would normally be this time of year.
The unusually high number of available rental units can be attributed to the exodus of many New Yorkers from the city to the suburbs or other locations with lower costs of living. This prompted many landlords to drop the rental prices for apartments in New York City, though New York City remains the second-highest rental market in the U.S. Throughout the year, New York City has built up around $2.5 billion to $3.5 billion in owed back rent, affecting 1.5 million households who have been unable to pay rent during the pandemic.
Subway Ridership is Stagnant
Subway ridership was flat during the week of Feb. 27 as the rolling seven-day average remained approximately 66% less than last year’s average. The MTA reported that about 1.52 million New York City riders used public transport during the week of Feb. 27. MTA officials are considering limiting service given the shrinking revenue it expects to receive due to reduced ridership. The MTA already announced service cuts for some Long Island Railroad routes, which also service parts of Queens, because ridership remains down due to the pandemic.
Restaurant Reservations See Small Bump
Restaurant reservations improved modestly during the week of Feb. 27, as the estimated number of seated diners was 76% lower than a year ago, compared to 77% 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. Indoor dining could expand to 75% capacity, from 25%, statewide starting March 19, though this will exclude restaurants in New York City. 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.