Editor's note: Below you'll find the week 37 release of the NYC Recovery Index, originally published April 20, 2021. Visit the NYC Recovery index homepage for the latest data.
New York City’s economic recovery rebounded substantially during the week ended April 10 and now sits at 57.9 — one of the highest scores of 2021. The jump was primarily due to strong numbers in almost every category (excluding the rental index), particularly in home sales and restaurant reservations. As the city continues its vaccine rollout, vaccination rates will be crucial for not just the COVID-19 hospitalization rate measure, but also the unemployment insurance (UI) claims and restaurant reservation indexes as well. Most recently, according to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), federal health officials are investigating several new Johnson & Johnson vaccine reports to determine if there might be additional cases of the rare blood clotting disorder.
New York City’s recovery stands at 57.9 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 nearly 5.6 points from the prior week. More than one year into the pandemic and New York City’s economic recovery is still only a little more than halfway back to early March 2020 levels.
COVID-19 Hospitalizations Continue to Decline
New York City continued to experience a decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations, reporting a rolling seven-day average of 201 hospitalizations per 1,000 people for the week of April 10, which is down by 27 hospitalizations from the previous week’s average. The city’s seven-day average hasn’t been this low since the first week of December 2020. There continues to be a general trend of decline in coronavirus hospitalizations within the city, and although it has been a bit delayed and not particularly linear, it looks to be roughly tracking with declines seen nationwide. New York City recorded a total of 906,907 cases and 32,140 deaths, as of April 19.
Continued case number trends will be an important factor to watch as vaccine rollouts hit the rest of the state, particularly with regards to how Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio handle said distributions.
According to Governor Cuomo, New York will be lessening restrictions at museums and movie theaters starting April 26, as positive test rates for COVID-19 have fallen to pre-holiday lows. The governor stated that visitor capacity at museums and zoos across the state will increase to 50%, while movie theaters will be able to fill 33% of their seats. He also added that capacity at large indoor arenas, such as Madison Square Garden, will be raised to 25%. The state had a seven-day average positivity rate of 2.85% as of April 18, the lowest since Nov. 13, Cuomo reported.
New York has vaccinated approximately 29% of the population and 36.6% of the currently eligible population (i.e, all adults), as of April 18. The state is projected to have enough vaccines for the entire adult population by July 14, 2021, exactly two weeks behind the Biden administration’s deadline. It’s also on pace with vaccination numbers from the week prior to achieve 70% vaccination in July of 2021 — placing it 12th out of 59 U.S. states, municipalities, and territories — according to VeryWell Health. Additionally, per New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Choskhi, COVID-19 hospitalizations among senior citizens have also dropped by 51% since mid-January.
Unemployment Finally Drops
The year-over-year (YOY) UI claims rate fell for the first time after three straight weeks of increases. The rate now stands at about a 347% increase from 2019 levels, which is around 3,862 fewer people filing claims than the week prior for a total of 23,000 claims. While this is a considerably larger number than the roughly 18,500 average in March, it is still a much lower rate than what we saw during those first few weeks of the start of the pandemic.
While vaccines are being distributed and normal economic activities are slowly opening back up, there may be a growing disconnect between the actual health of the labor market and UI claims, which are often backward-looking.
Home Sales Rally
During the week of April 10, pending home sales had a great rally and now sit at 68% higher than 2019 levels. The home buying market in NYC is still hotter than normal, and is the only index measure to remain consistently above pre-pandemic levels.
There are 783 pending home sales for all of New York City, compared to 465 during this same period last year. YOY changes for Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens are up 66%, 116%, and 17%, respectively. Although Queens saw a slight 3% decline, increases in Manhattan and especially Brooklyn, the latter of which increased from 42% to 116% week-over-week, more than made up for it.
Rental Market Experiences More Vacancies
New York City’s rental market continues to bear the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to home sales. As of the week of April 10, 2021, year-over-year New York City rental vacancies increased by 1,346 homes. This was the first increase in over a month and the rise in vacancies — which now sit at 32,221 — pushed the index score down by another two points.
As New York City continues its economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the real estate market will be watching to see whether there is an influx of people returning to the city throughout the spring and summer months of 2021 to counterbalance the many departures during the height of the pandemic in 2020.
Subway Ridership Rises Slowly but Remains Low
Subway ridership rose substantially week-over-week during the week of April 10. The seven-day rolling average of riders was approximately 63% less than the average during the same period in 2019. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) reported an estimated rolling seven-day average of just over 1.7 million riders on public transport during the week of April 10. The overall number of riders appears to be increasing at the usual rate coming out of winter into spring, yet it is still nearly two-thirds down from normal usage.
The raw figure has increased at a very slow pace week-over-week — a bit more than the seasonal increase expected during a non-pandemic year. While it is heartening to see some positive movement, there needs to be real sustained growth in the MTA ridership for it to approach normal usage levels. The MTA just received a chunk of aid from the Federal Government via the American Rescue Plan. We will see if ridership improves with better weather and sustained financing in the weeks to come.
The MTA may see a further increase in funding in the near future, as today it began marketing its first-ever bond sale backed by a payroll tax, with debt maturing in 30 years initially offering a 1.9% yield. The MTA is issuing the debt backed by this tax to provide additional security to investors, given that subway and bus ridership plunged as a result of the pandemic.
Restaurant Reservations Rising
Restaurant reservations had a relatively positive week as of April 10, as reservations throughout the city caused the index measure to rise by almost five points. OpenTable estimates that the rolling seven-day average of seated diners in New York City was just over 70% lower than the same period in 2019. This is the largest week-over-week increase for New York City’s restaurant industry since early summer of last year.
Restaurant reservations have effectively hovered at their 2020 autumn levels since indoor dining was partially opened, and they will likely remain there (approximately 75% below normal) until some combination of higher vaccination rates and lowered occupancy restrictions occurs. Future trends throughout the next few months will be critical for determining whether diners can potentially increase their capacity along with the warmer weather, a rise in vaccinations, and/or a decline in cases.
New York City restaurants are currently limited to 50% indoor capacity, while the rest of the state is limited to 75% capacity for indoor dining. Future reservations in the city will largely depend on an increase in the vaccination rate, a decline in COVID-19 cases, and warmer weather.