Editor's note: Below you'll find the week 97 release of the NYC Recovery Index, originally published July 12, 2022. Visit the NYC Recovery index homepage for the latest data.
New York City’s economy continued to recover at a modest pace for the week ending July 2, 2022, with the overall index score rising one point to a score of 75 out of 100. Index gains were driven by a surge in restaurant reservations, which recorded their best result of the pandemic recovery thus far. On the downside, the COVID-19 hospitalization rate continued to rise, subway ridership declined for the second consecutive week, and rental vacancies declined further.
New York City’s economic 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 two years into the pandemic, New York City’s economic recovery is three-quarters of the way back to pre-pandemic levels.
COVID-19 Hospitalizations Continue to Rise
The COVID-19 hospitalization rate in New York City rose for the fourth consecutive week, to 110 hospitalized people per day. The latest figure is over six times higher than the early March trough of 18 hospitalizations recorded four months ago. While the current increase has not been as dramatic as prior waves of the pandemic, it has raised concerns of a sustained and prolonged upward trend in COVID-19 infections.
The CDC continues to project that virtually all new cases are attributed to omicron, with the rapidly-growing BA.5 subvariant accounting for a rising share of new infections. As of July 9, 63.9% of all new infections were attributed to the BA.5 strain, compared to a declining 20.8% share caused by the older BA.2.12.1 strain. Despite the increase in infections, Region 2 of the Department of Health and Human Services (which encompasses New York City) continues to have the third-lowest prevalence of the BA.5 strain among the ten census regions tracked by the CDC.
The share of fully vaccinated New York City residents rose to 79%, according to NYC Health & Hospitals data. From the onset of the pandemic, a total of 2.64 million cases (confirmed and probable) and 40,857 COVID-19-related deaths have been recorded in New York City.
Unemployment Claims Rise
The total number of unemployment insurance (UI) claims filed in New York City reversed course and rose during the week ending July 2. Total UI claims rose by over one thousand to 6,640, from 5,170 the prior week. Meanwhile, the pre-pandemic rolling average of claims, tracking the same week of 2019, also rose by a similarly large margin to 6,933 claims. Unemployment claims are currently four percent below their pre-pandemic rolling average, with the city’s labor market remaining fully recovered.
Home Sales Bounce Back
Citywide home sales rebounded during the week ending July 2, following a large decline over the prior week. Total home sales rose by 105 homes, reaching 571, while the 2019 rolling average of sales—tracking the equivalent pre-pandemic week—declined by 26. With this week’s increase, home sales once again exceed their pre-pandemic baseline by over 30%, after sales dropped to just 4% above the pre-pandemic baseline last week. For much of the past year, pending home sales in New York City have typically held far above the pre-pandemic baseline, driven by a strong national housing market. By borough, Queens continues to lead neighboring boroughs, with home sales 41.1% above pre-pandemic levels in the borough, compared to rates of 36.7% and 28.4% in Manhattan and Brooklyn, respectively.
Rental Availability Declines Again
There were 14,249 rental vacancies available in NYC during the week ending July 2, marking 230 fewer units than the week before. As such, rental vacancies now number about 76%, or just over three-quarters of their pre-pandemic level. This week’s decline defied expectations of a seasonal increase for this time of year, pushing the index score down. Rental availability in New York City remains about 2,200 units short of the typical pre-pandemic level for this time of year.
Subway Ridership Continues to Slide
Subway ridership declined for the second consecutive week, with the trailing seven-day ridership average crossing the critical 40% threshold, to 41.2% below the pre-pandemic baseline. This week’s result marks the lowest for subway ridership in over two months, reversing gains made over recent weeks. For the week, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) reported 2.76 million average daily riderships.
Restaurant Reservations Surge
New York City restaurants experienced a major boost in reservations this week, with reservations rising to just 25.4% below their pre-pandemic average and marking their best result of the pandemic era. This week marked the third-strongest weekly gain since the inception of the index, with the restaurant reservations subindex score rising 8.8 percentage points to 74 out of 100. As such, the city’s restaurant industry is still missing just over a quarter of its pre-pandemic customer base.
Despite this week’s impressive increase in reservations, New York City’s restaurant industry still lags behind other major cities in reservation numbers, according to OpenTable data. Restaurants in Houston are currently operating with reservations 16.6% above pre-pandemic levels, while Los Angeles and Chicago are down only 5.1% and 14% from their pre-pandemic baselines, respectively.
The numbers prove that New York City’s restaurant industry has been the most adversely-impacted nationwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has also made decisive strides in recent weeks. New York has just surpassed Washington D.C. in the recovery of its dining industry, with reservations for the latter’s restaurants down 27.8% relative to their pre-pandemic level, compared to 25.4% for New York City restaurants.
For the month of May, total employment at New York City restaurants totaled 505,100, rising at a healthy 4.7% rate month-over-month, or 17.7% year-over-year. The current payroll level remains 7.2% below the pre-pandemic baseline of May 2019. While the increase in restaurant reservations has been favorable in recent weeks, total employment and staffing at the city’s restaurants remains below the pre-pandemic level, which may potentially hinder near-term growth. An increase in staffing would enable the city’s restaurants to operate more smoothly and efficiently to accommodate growing numbers of diners.