Editor's note: Below you'll find the week 38 release of the NYC Recovery Index, originally published April 27, 2021. Visit the NYC Recovery index homepage for the latest data.
New York City’s economic recovery remained relatively flat week-over-week as of April 17, falling slightly to a score of 57 out of 100 — one of the highest scores of 2021. Although there were dips in home sales and restaurant reservations, these were largely offset by a strong week of unemployment insurance (UI) claims. As the city continues its vaccine rollout, vaccination rates will be crucial for not just the COVID-19 hospitalization rate, but also the UI claims and restaurant reservation indexes as well.
New York City’s recovery stands at 57 out of a total score of 100, according to the New York City Recovery Index, a joint project between Investopedia and NY1. The index fell 1.5 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 Decline Further
New York City experienced yet another decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations, reporting a rolling seven-day average of 174 hospitalizations per 100,000 people for the week of April 17, which is down by 27 hospitalizations from the previous week’s average — a similar decline to the prior week. The city’s seven-day average hasn’t been this low since the first week of Dec. 2020. Though the decline in New York City COVID hospitalizations has at times been slow or uneven, it looks to be roughly tracking with declines seen nationwide. NYC has recorded a total of 920,972 cases and 32,392 deaths, as of April 26.
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 manage said distributions. Criticism surrounding how both the Mayor and Governor have handled the vaccine dissemination process is already beginning to mount.
Yesterday Mayor de Blasio outlined his $98.6 billion budget proposal for the coming fiscal year, beginning July 1, which is slated to restore over $10 billion in spending that was cut last year due to COVID-19. The focus will primarily be on pandemic recovery, such as providing loans and rental assistance to small businesses and funding a new workforce to clean up the city. Other elements of the proposal include $377 million for a free preschool program for three- and four-year-olds and $50 million for a newly launched public-health corps. Meanwhile, Governor Cuomo announced both the return of the New York State Fair this summer, operating at 50% capacity, and an expansion on capacity restrictions for offices, casinos, outdoor stadiums, and gyms/fitness clubs — excluding those inside New York City in the latter’s case.
Unemployment Falls Once Again
The year-over-year (YOY) UI claims rate fell further as of April 17 and now stands at about a 208% increase from 2019 levels. Approximately 6,570 fewer people filed claims in New York City than the week prior for a total of just over 16,000 claims, which is more than three times the number who filed this week in 2019. That said, April’s roughly 16,000 claims are now below the approximately 18,500 average in March, with UI claims finally trending in a positive direction for the second straight week.
UI claims are still up by a significant amount, yet 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 Chill Out
During the week of April 17, pending home sales cooled off slightly from an otherwise hot market, and now sit at 62% higher than 2019 levels. The home buying market in New York City is still running higher than normal YOY, and it is the only index measure to do so.
There are 744 pending home sales for all of New York City, compared to 457 during this same period last year. YOY changes for Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens are up 82%, 47%, and 74%, respectively.
Rental Market Vacancies Fall
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 17, YOY New York City rental vacancies declined by 549 residences week-over-week. Despite this drop, the city’s vacancies still sit above the new-year low established two week prior, which was 30,875. This decline in vacancies — which now sit at 31,672 — pushed the index score up by a single point.
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 Slows Down
Subway ridership experienced a minor decline week-over-week during the week of April 17. The seven-day rolling average was approximately 64% less than 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 17. 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 effectively ceased growing week-over-week. The MTA is at an inflection point, as the typical returns of spring and summer and potential office openings appear to be signaling that increases in ridership could be on the horizon. It will be interesting to see if the data bears that out in the coming weeks and months.
Union officials representing New York City’s subway workers are pushing for an increased police presence underground amid concerns of a rise in assaults on both MTA employees and riders. According to the chief of the New York Police Department's Transit Division at an MTA hearing the week prior, crime is reportedly down compared to the same period last year. Transit officials, however, insist the numbers are misleading and believe that the drop in daily ridership is due to people avoiding the subway out of concern for their wellbeing.
Restaurant Reservations Reverse
Restaurant reservations experienced a rocky decline as of April 17, causing the index measure to decline by almost seven points, which more than erased the prior week’s gains. OpenTable estimates that the rolling seven-day average of seated diners in New York City was just over 77% lower than the same period in 2019. This is a major setback following several weeks of positive momentum in the restaurant industry.
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.