Editor's note: Below you'll find the week 54 release of the NYC Recovery Index, originally published August 31, 2021. Visit the NYC Recovery index homepage for the latest data.

New York City’s economic recovery index advanced considerably as of August 21, jumping four points to a score of 80, a new pandemic high for the index. Progress in the city’s unemployment index was primarily responsible for the increase, though several other measures including restaurant reservations and subway ridership made modest gains. After several weeks of rising COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations also began to decline.

Following the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which previously only had emergency use authorization (EUA), a number of employers immediately implemented new vaccination requirements. According to a study by Indeed, the share of job ads that require vaccinations nearly doubled as of August, and are only expected to grow. On Aug. 31, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced the state would begin to allocate $65 million for local communities to set up COVID-19 booster shot facilities once their rollout is approved.

New York City’s recovery stands at a score of 80 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 four-fifths of the way back to early March 2020 levels.

COVID-19 Hospitalizations Drop

COVID-19 hospitalizations began to decline as of Aug. 21, falling to a rolling seven-day average of 105 hospitalizations per 100,000 people, five less than the week before. The CDC projects that nearly all or over 98.9% 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. A total of 1,032,735 cases and 33,830 deaths were recorded in New York City as of Aug. 31.

As of Aug. 31, New York State has fully vaccinated approximately 60.31% of its broader population, and is on pace to fully vaccinate 70% by late October. In a national ranking of state vaccination efforts, New York State came in 15 out of 50 states, districts, and territories, according to Verywell Health

Unemployment Claims Fall

The unemployment index in New York City improved significantly as of Aug. 21, as estimated UI claims shrank from 45% to 21% above pre-pandemic levels, coming the closest it ever has to a full recovery. If claims stabilize at current rates over the next few weeks, a full recovery could be on the horizon later this fall. However, recent pandemic-related restrictions on restaurants and businesses like the “Key to NYC” vaccination requirement, which took effect on Aug. 17, may not be fully reflected in claims as of Aug. 21, and could hold the measure back.

Home Sales Outperform Seasonal Lows

The city’s overall home sales index improved despite a reduction in pending home sales by 39 homes over the last week, reflecting seasonal changes resulting in an even greater decline over the same period before the pandemic. Though sales declined this week, the city’s housing market has more than recovered, and continues to surpass pre-pandemic levels. Sales in Manhattan are up 53.8% compared to 2019 levels, while Brooklyn is up 89.2%, and sales in Queens are up 43.3%.

Rental Market Remains Nearly Recovered

New York City’s rental index remained unchanged as of Aug. 21, holding onto its previous score of 97, just three points short of a full recovery. And with September 1st, an important date for lease turnovers, just around the corner, the index could potentially reclaim those remaining points. If the rental index can continue to maintain current vacancy rates, it will have effectively recovered. 

Subway Ridership Ticks Upward

Subway ridership made small steps in the positive direction as of Aug. 21, with the seven-day rolling average moving from 50% to 48% below pre-pandemic ridership. The measure has hovered at or near the halfway point since early July. 

As several companies in the New York Metro area have announced delays in office reopening plans which are unlikely to be reversed, subway ridership could be significantly slower to recoup than previously anticipated. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) estimated a trailing seven-day average of close to 2.2 million riders on public transport. 

Restaurant Reservations Grow

The city’s restaurant reservation index posted a slight increase as of Aug. 21, and edged a few percentage points closer to a recovery as reservations grew from 51% to 47% below 2019 levels, according to OpenTable estimates. Like subway ridership, restaurant reservations have stagnated close to 50% for several weeks, and could be slow to rebound, as new vaccination requirements are implemented.