Editor's note: Below you'll find the week 50 release of the NYC Recovery Index, originally published August 2, 2021. Visit the NYC Recovery index homepage for the latest data.
New York City’s economic recovery index experienced several slight setbacks as of July 24, falling from a score of 78 to 76, as COVID-19 hospitalizations continued to climb, and key measures in the index like unemployment claims failed to make substantial gains.
As Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) health investigators find new evidence suggesting COVID-19 variants are more contagious than previously thought, attitudes toward reopening have changed. The CDC reversed its mask guidance over the past week, advising both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals resume wearing masks indoors.
On the heels of the CDC’s recommendations, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Aug. 2 that vaccinated New Yorkers should wear masks in crowded indoor areas, as well as a campaign to vaccinate school children ages 12-17 before September. City vaccination centers have also started offering a $100 incentive for unvaccinated individuals to get their first shot.
It is worth noting however, that the week of July 24 still recorded one of the best scores since the onset of the pandemic, marking the eleventh week the index surpassed a score of 70.
New York City’s recovery stands at a score of 76 out of 100, according to the New York City Recovery Index, a joint project between Investopedia and NY1. Over a year into the pandemic, NYC’s economic recovery is now roughly three-quarters of the way back to early March 2020 levels.
COVID-19 Hospitalizations Swell
COVID-19 hospitalization rates continued to climb as of July 24, posting a rolling seven-day average of 40 hospitalizations per 100,000 people, ten greater than the week prior. The CDC projects that over 80% of new cases in the New York region (along with New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) are linked to the delta variant, which may be as contagious as chickenpox. The agency has since advised that both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals wear masks in indoor spaces, particularly in parts of the country where cases are on the rise. So far, New York City has recorded a total of 978,007 cases and 33,545 deaths, as of Aug. 2.
As of Aug. 2, New York State has fully vaccinated approximately 57.5% of its broader population, and is on pace to fully vaccinate 70% by November. In a national ranking of state vaccination efforts, New York State came in 14 out of 50 states, districts, and territories, according to VeryWell Health.
Unemployment Claims Rise
The estimated UI claims rate in New York City rose as of July 24, climbing from 30% to 34% above 2019 levels. Despite the increase, the figure represents one of the lowest UI claims rates recorded since the onset of the pandemic. If the growing number of COVID-19 cases lead to travel or other business restrictions, rates could potentially slide back to earlier highs.
Home Sales Contract
New York City’s home buying market declined this week, as pending home sales dropped from 42% to 28% above pre-pandemic levels. Though home sales fell this week, they remain the only measure in the index to fully recover, and are still performing above pre-pandemic norms. Some boroughs posted better performance than others, with sales in Queens 41% above 2019 levels, followed by Brooklyn at 25% and Manhattan at 19%, respectively.
Rental Vacancies Near Full Recovery
New York City’s rental index improved substantially this week, rising to a score of 94 from 86 the week prior, as renters snapped up vacancies. This is the highest score the rental market has reached since just after the onset of the pandemic last March. It was also the fifth straight week the score has stayed above 80, as the measure edges closer to a full recovery. However, some of the rental market’s gains coincide with seasonal momentum, which may fade after the market’s peak summer months.
Subway Ridership Holds Steady
Subway ridership stayed relatively constant as of July 24, with the seven-day rolling average just over 49% below pre-pandemic ridership. The measure is slightly more than half of the way back to recovery, hovering at or near the 50% mark over the past month. With several companies in the New York Metro area, including Twitter and The New York Times Company, delaying plans to return to the office, subway ridership’s return to normal could be slower than previously anticipated. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) estimated a trailing seven-day average of over 2.2 million riders on public transport.
Restaurant Reservations Stay Flat
Restaurant reservations made incremental progress in the positive direction as of July 24, hovering at approximately 47% below 2019 levels, according to OpenTable estimates. Like subway ridership, restaurant reservations have lingered roughly halfway to recovery for several weeks, and could be held back if the rise in COVID-19 cases leads to renewed safety guidelines limiting restaurant capacity.