New York City Recovery Index: Week of August 17

Tracking NYC's economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic

Editor's note: Below you'll find the week 4 release of the NYC Recovery Index, originally published Aug 24, 2020. Visit the NYC Recovery index homepage for the latest data.


The latest reading of the New York City Recovery Index out of a possible score of 100.

In one of the first hopeful signs for New York City’s economic recovery in months, lower weekly unemployment claims have helped drive the New York City Recovery Index higher for the past week. While still more than 70% lower than pre-pandemic levels, the city’s economic recovery had been stalled through July as high unemployment, a lack of subway mobility and very few dining reservations kept the Index below 25.

Most of the drivers of the Recovery Index are now moving in the right direction just a few weeks before schools reopen and residents who left the city return to the five boroughs. At a score of 26.9, this is the first time the index has topped 25 out of 100.

Unemployment Claims Are Down

With over 20% unemployment, New York City still leads nearly all major metro areas in that unenviable category. Since New York is home to millions of front-line workers in hospitality and services industries, layoffs have hit residents hard. But there are encouraging signs that the worst may be over—at least for now. There were 1,600 fewer weekly unemployment claims last week than the week prior, and while that is still four times higher than the same week last year, this was the first meaningful drop since April. As the school year is set to begin and some offices are reopening to employees, there is hope that this trend will continue through the Fall.

New COVID-19 Hospitalizations See a Small Increase

Full recovery is completely based on whether NYC can keep the number of new daily virus cases on the decline. That has been the case for the past several weeks, which is also helping drive the City Recovery Index higher. As New York enters the final phase of reopening and the subways and avenues fill up with residents and visitors for the first time in months, the next several weeks will be a major test of the city’s ability to keep the virus from spreading.

Restaurant Reservations Tick Upward

New restaurant reservations, a key indicator for the NYC Recovery Index, remain near the lows where they have sat all summer. Governor Cuomo prohibited indoor dining on July 16 , due to the surge in new cases. Restaurants are open for dine-out, or take-out only, for the foreseeable future, so don’t expect this indicator to move too much in the coming weeks.

Small Business Applications Remain Low

Small business applications remain stable, albeit at low levels. There was heavy activity with new applications in June and July as some small business owners braved the uncertainty. Most of the new activity has been among food providers, namely carts and trucks, and national franchises seeking to open new locations. An upturn in new applications is not expected until restaurants are allowed to reopen for indoor dining, and more commuters begin returning to the city on a regular basis. There is no timetable for either of those to happen anytime soon, so that component of the Index is likely to remain muted.

Subway Usage Still at Historic Lows

Metrocard swipes all across the five boroughs remain at extremely low levels as most computers are either working from home or simply not working anymore. That will change as schools begin to reopen in the coming weeks and some commuters return to their offices. Still, the main arteries for commuters remain at very low levels, and there is almost no activity at the key subway stops used by tourists. Tourism is at historic lows as New York’s restaurants, museums and theaters remain closed, for now.

The reduction in unemployment claims is a positive trend for NYC, though new hospitalizations will play the largest role in all categories of the index—and life in New York—returning to normal. Until offices begin to fill up with workers, and restaurants are allowed to resume indoor dining, we're likely to see very slow upward movement in all areas.

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