The New York City Recovery Index: January 18

Tracking NYC's economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic

Editor's note: Below you'll find the week 72 release of the NYC Recovery Index, originally published January 19, 2022. Visit the NYC Recovery index homepage for the latest data.

New York City’s economic recovery index made substantial progress over the week ended Jan. 8, as the index rose from a score of 69 to a score of 75. Pending home sales led the gains, along with the city’s rental market, while most other measures lost ground. Restaurant reservations and subway ridership dropped, as COVID-19 hospitalizations rose.

This week, three-quarters of employers surveyed by The Partnership for New York City said that they delayed return-to-office plans over concerns related to the omicron variant of COVID-19. Meanwhile, less than two-thirds said they felt confident at least half their workers would be back to their offices in person by the end of March.

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. Nearly two years into the pandemic, NYC’s economic recovery is three-quarters of the way back to early March 2020 levels.

COVID-19 Hospitalizations Climb

COVID-19 hospitalization rates continued to rise as of Jan. 8, escalating to a seven-day average of 967 hospitalizations per 100,000 people, over 130 more than the week before. That rate exceeded 2021 rates, at heights not reached since April of 2020. 

The majority of COVID-19 cases in the region are attributable to the omicron variant, with the CDC projecting that roughly 99.8% of new cases in the New York region (along with New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) are connected to omicron. 

A total of 2,133,331 cases and 36,949 deaths were recorded in New York City as of Jan. 18.1 As of Jan. 18, 74% of New York State’s population has fully vaccinated against COVID-19, per the CDC.

Unemployment Claims Rise

After easing last week, unemployment claims surged from an estimated 22% to 32% above pre-pandemic levels as of Jan. 8, potentially due to remaining holiday season jobs ending. Despite the setback and recent volatility, unemployment claims have been on a positive trend for the past month, with several weeks at the end of 2021 exceeding a recovery score of 80. The measure could still be close to a recovery, if it can sustain the progress seen during the holiday season in the face of rising COVID-19 cases through late winter. 

Home Sales Grow

There were 479 pending home sales in New York City as of Jan. 8, up from 388 the week before, boosting the city’s overall score. Home sales continue to surpass 2019 levels, with sales running 90% higher than 2019 rates over the same period. By borough, sales in Manhattan are up 97% compared to pre-pandemic levels, while sales figures in Brooklyn are up 75%, and sales in Queens are up 122%. 

Rental Market Expands

New York City had 13,277 rentals on the market for the week of Jan. 8, an increase of over 1,900 units from the week prior, lifting the rental index to a score of 85. At this score, the rental index effectively returned to October 2021 levels. Although the rental index score hovers in the mid-80s, it is one of the best-performing measures in the index, and stands to make further gains if it can withstand seasonal lows in the winter months.

Subway Ridership Slides

Subway ridership continued to lose ground as of Jan. 8, as the seven-day trailing average fell to 55% below 2019 levels. This represented the sixth week of declines in ridership, roughly similar to June 2021 levels, before the measure experienced a slight resurgence in November. The MTA now estimates a trailing 7-day average of just under two million riders as of the first of the year. 

Beyond the subway, other forms of transit also lingered below pre-pandemic levels. Comparing seven-day averages for the week ending Jan. 13 reveals that Metro North and LIRR sustained the worst hit, at 64% and 61% below pre-pandemic levels, respectively. Bridges and tunnels are closest to 2019 levels, at roughly 82% of pandemic ridership levels, though that rate is also significantly lower than the figures reached in early December. Most forms of public transportation in the New York Tri-state area have experienced a decline in usage over the past month.

Restaurant Reservations Decline

Restaurants experienced a steep drop in reservations as of Jan. 8, from 53% to 63% below 2019 levels, according to OpenTable estimates. After a brief respite, this week’s losses erased most of the previous week’s gains to hit the lowest level reservations have reached since May of 2021. During seasonally-low winter months, with cold outdoor temperatures and restrictions related to COVID-19 still in place, reservations may be slow to pick up for several months to come. 

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