Editor's note: Below you'll find the week 51 release of the NYC Recovery Index, originally published August 9, 2021. Visit the NYC Recovery index homepage for the latest data.

New York City’s economic recovery index continued to lose ground as of July 31, falling from a score of 76 to 75, as COVID-19 hospitalizations and unemployment claims rose. Though it remains one of the best scores since the onset of the pandemic, the resurgence of infections linked to COVID-19 variants threatens to delay the city’s progress toward a full recovery. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, New York City is now considered a "high" or "substantial" COVID transmission area. 

Following updates to CDC guidance on masks, New York health officials are encouraging all residents to wear them in indoor spaces, irrespective of vaccination status, but stopped short of a citywide mandate. However, as the city prepares to welcome students back to schools in September, all K-12 students and staff will be required to wear masks indoors. So far, roughly 44% of children ages 12-17 in New York City have gotten at least one shot. Many are likely to start school unvaccinated, as this is the last week children can get their first vaccine and be fully vaccinated in time for September.

New York City’s recovery stands at a score of 75 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 Rise

COVID-19 hospitalizations climbed as of July 31, posting a rolling seven-day average of 59 hospitalizations per 100,000 people, nineteen more than the week prior. The CDC projects that over 80.9% 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, which may be as contagious as chickenpox. The agency has since advised that all individuals wear masks in indoor spaces, particularly in areas where transmission rates are high, which applies to nearly 75% of the U.S. So far, New York City has recorded a total of 988,597 cases and 33,588 deaths, as of Aug. 9.

As of Aug. 9, New York State has fully vaccinated approximately 58.1% of its broader population, and is on pace to fully vaccinate 70% by October. 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 Grow

Despite a strong July jobs report from the Department of Labor (DOL) last week, the estimated UI claims rate in New York City took a dramatic turn as of July 24, soaring from roughly 34% above 2019 levels to 74%. The resurgence in COVID-19 infections could potentially push the measure further if new restrictions on businesses are implemented to contain the spread of the virus.

Home Sales Outperform Despite Decline

Although sales in New York City’s home buying market fell somewhat this week, they still outperformed compared to seasonal declines over the same pre-pandemic period in 2019, boosting the home sales index score by 17 points. Home buying remains the only composite measure in the index that has fully recovered and is exceeding pre-pandemic levels. Sales in Manhattan are up 52% compared to pre-pandemic levels, while Brooklyn and Queens are up 55% and 23%, respectively.

Rental Vacancies Inch Closer to Recovery

New York City’s rental index nearly reached full recovery this week, rising from a score of 94 to 98, as renters signed more leases. This is the highest score the rental market has reached since just after the onset of the pandemic last March. It was also the sixth straight week the score has stayed above 80, as the measure edges within two points of a full score of 100. However, the index may have trouble holding onto summer gains heading into the fall, as seasonal changes over the peak summer season may have contributed to the rental index’s current highs.

Subway Ridership Slips

Subway ridership experienced a slight dip as of July 31, with the seven-day rolling average settling at 50% below pre-pandemic ridership. The measure is roughly halfway back to recovery, and has hovered at or near the 50% mark since early July. With several companies in the New York Metro area announcing delays to office reopening plans, subway ridership could take longer than previously anticipated to recover. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) estimated a trailing seven-day average of over 2.2 million riders on public transport. 

Restaurant Reservations Fall

Restaurant reservations experienced setbacks as of July 31, falling from 47% to 49% below 2019 levels, according to OpenTable estimates. Like subway ridership, restaurant reservations have stagnated around halfway to recovery for several weeks, and could struggle to take off if the current upward trend in COVID-19 cases leads to new guidelines limiting restaurant capacity.