The City Economic Recovery Tracker: Week of January 25

Tracking five cities' economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic

Editor's note: Below you'll find the week 7 release of the City Economic Recovery Tracker (CERT), originally published Jan. 27, 2021. Visit the CERT homepage for the latest data.

The five cities in Investopedia’s City Economic Recovery Tracker (CERT) experienced mixed economic recoveries during the week of Jan. 16. Los Angeles had gains in its economic activity, largely due to a drop in unemployment claims, while Houston continued a four-week decline as the number of COVID-19 cases in the city rose. Meanwhile, New York, Chicago, and Columbus all had little to no activity.

Despite its weekly overall decline of three points, Houston is still experiencing the strongest recovery with a score of 54. Houston and Columbus are the only two cities halfway back to pre-pandemic levels. Los Angeles saw the greatest overall weekly change with an increase of 7, giving it a score of 42 and placing it ahead of New York and Chicago, which both have a score of 37.

Cities Experience Mixed COVID-19 Trends

COVID-19 case rates among the five cities have either stagnated or are on the rise, with steady increases in New York City keeping it in the second highest slot among the five cities with an average of 74 new cases per 100,000 people for the week of Jan. 16. New York City reported 580,000 COVID-19 cases and 26,720 deaths as of Jan. 27.

Nonetheless, Los Angeles is still the most concerning city in relation to COVID-19 as its case rate hovers at 139 new cases per 100,000 people, more than double New York City’s rate. Los Angeles County reported 1.09 million COVID-19 cases and 15,592 deaths as of Jan. 27. Houston, meanwhile, witnessed a three-week increase in the number of cases in the city, with a rate of 66 new cases per 100,000 people. Harris County, where Houston resides, reported 304,000 COVID-19 cases and 4,060 deaths as of Jan. 27.

Yet, both Chicago and Columbus had a turn for the better with small week-over-week declines, returning to the downward trend witnessed in late December and early January. 

Future cases will largely depend on people’s adherence to social distancing practices and how quickly vaccine distribution and development can be rolled out.The Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan includes subsidizing COVID-19 testing and vaccination programs across the nation, but that bill has yet to be voted on in Congress.

Los Angeles Unemployment Improves

The unemployment claims rate among the five cities has been mixed during the week of Jan. 16. Columbus’ year-over-year rate jumped to the highest point among the five cities and is nearly 8.5 times the city’s rate during the same period last year. Meanwhile, Los Angeles saw its rate decrease week-over-week, and its rate is now 59% higher than the same period last year (while this is still high, it is significantly better than the other cities).

Future unemployment claims will largely depend on how widespread potential future shutdowns are in the five cities and how quickly vaccine distribution and development can occur. So far 47.2 million doses have been distributed and 24.7 doses have been administered nationwide, according to the CDC. Between 2.9% and 6.1% of eligible adults have received both vaccine doses in Texas, California, Ohio, Illinois, and New York, according to VeryWell.

Restaurant Reservations Vary For the Cities

Restaurant reservations varied between the five cities during the week of Jan. 16. Los Angeles’ restaurant index score remained at zero due to the city’s outdoor dining ban. However, the situation for the city will likely soon change now that California health officials lifted the regional stay-at-home order. Los Angeles County’s public health director said restaurants can resume outdoor dining with occupancy limits and social distancing practices by Jan 29.

Meanwhile Houston, the top city for the restaurant index, saw its score decline slightly, while New York saw an improvement week-over-week. The restaurant industry is still trying to power through the winter season as colder weather and rising COVID-19 rates deter patrons, with restaurateurs awaiting potential future stimulus relief.

Transit Numbers are Mixed Across the Cities

Transit numbers across the index were mixed week-over-week, with slight bumps in Los Angeles, New York City, and Columbus, and a small decline in Houston. There was no change in Chicago week-over-week. 

Columbus and Houston sit at the top of the transit leaderboard with scores of 61and 60, respectively, and are more than halfway to recovery. Meanwhile, Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago all have scores between 47 and 52. Biden’s American Rescue Plan includes $20 billion of relief for “the hardest hit public transit agencies” in the country.

Some Small Businesses See Increase

The small business index, a bright spot in CERT, saw modest increases for New York, Los Angeles, and Columbus during the week of Jan. 16. Columbus and Houston remained at the top of the leaderboard with scores of 78 and 71, respectively. Meanwhile, New York and Chicago sit at the bottom of the leaderboard with scores of 54.

The Biden administration allocated $440 billion of its proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus package to communities, including grants and loans for small businesses.

Data by Amanda Morelli/Adrian Nesta. Additional reporting by Elana Dure.

Article Sources
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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "CDC COVID Data Tracker."

  2. ABC7. "CA lifts regional stay-at-home order. Here's what that means for Southern California."

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