The New York City Recovery Index: March 28

Tracking NYC's economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic

Editor's note: Below you'll find the week 82 release of the NYC Recovery Index, originally published March 29, 2022. Visit the NYC Recovery index homepage for the latest data.

The New York City Recovery Index’s methodology has changed: All component index scores will be capped at 100 (fully-recovered) as of March 19, 2022, to reflect a more accurate overall recovery score, and prevent measures that have surpassed pre-pandemic levels from overshadowing deficits of others that have not recovered. With this change, the highest possible overall NY recovery index score will be 100, and will only be attained when all six component measure index scores reach or surpass pre-pandemic trends.

New York City’s economic recovery index experienced a minor gain in the week ending March 19, 2022, increasing from 75.5 to 76.6 and rounded up to 77. Gains were driven primarily by a strong increase in restaurant reservations, as well as a slight increase in subway ridership. On the other hand, the week of March 19 saw the first rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations in over two months, weighing on the performance of the aggregate index.

This week, New York City Mayor Eric Adams reportedly called on employers to bring employees back to offices, suggesting that prolonged remote work policies were draining the economy of the five boroughs. New York City’s unemployment rate stood at 7.0% in February, well above the national average of 3.8%. The city’s pre-pandemic unemployment rate in February of 2020 stood at 3.4%.

New York City’s recovery stands at a score of 77 out of 100, according to the New York City Recovery Index, a joint project between Investopedia and NY1. Just over two years into the pandemic, New York City’s economic recovery is just over three-quarters of the way back to pre-pandemic levels.

COVID-19 Hospitalizations Rise

COVID-19 hospitalization rates rose for the first time in over two months, with the city recording an average of 20.5 hospitalizations per day, 2.5 more than the previous week ending March 12. This marks the first rise in hospitalization rates after nine consecutive weeks of decline. Despite this, hospitalization rates remain well below the peaks seen during previous waves of the pandemic, and it remains one of the lowest hospitalization rates seen over the past two years.

The CDC continues to project 100% of cases in the New York region (along with New Jersey, New York State, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) are related to the omicron variant, with 71% of new cases being attributed to the new BA.2 strain of the virus. As of March 28, 77.6% of the city’s population has been fully immunized against coronavirus, with the borough of Queens having the highest percentage of fully vaccinated residents at 85%, and Brooklyn having the lowest at 71%. Citywide, over 17 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered. Since the start of the pandemic, New York City has recorded 2,303,961 cases of COVID-19, along with 40,073 deaths as of March 29, according to NYC Health data.

Unemployment Claims Fall

The number of unemployment insurance (UI) claims in New York City decreased slightly by 110 claims in the week ending March 19, falling from 5,390 to 5,280 claims. By comparison, the 2019 rolling average of claims, tracking the same week of 2019, counted 5,267 claims. This puts the current level of claims roughly in line with the pre-pandemic average for this time of year. Considering this, citywide employment has nearly fully recovered to the pre-pandemic average, with the city’s labor market having made substantial progress since the pandemic lows of 2020.

Home Sales Cool Slightly

Week-over-week home sales declined from 796 to 710 in the week ending March 19, cooling moderately compared to the previous week’s total. Despite this, pending home sales in New York City remain 66% above 2019 levels (with a figure of 426 in the corresponding week of March 2019). The city’s housing market, similar to that of the U.S. at large, has risen rapidly since late 2020 and remains far above pre-pandemic levels. By borough, the most dynamic housing market has been Brooklyn, with Brooklyn home sales rising 87.5% relative to 2019. Manhattan and Queens are just behind, with 77% and 69% gains, respectively.

Rental Market Availability Declines

New York City had 12,856 rentals on the market during the week of March 19, which is 537 fewer than the previous week. As a result, the rental market subindex score declined to 78, two points lower compared to the week of March 12. Before the pandemic, about 15,000 available rentals would be typical this time of year, meaning the rental market still has considerable ground to cover before reaching a full recovery. One factor that may be keeping rental availability lower is strong housing demand, which has fueled the surge in real estate prices in the nation’s cities and metropolitan areas.

Subway Ridership Rebounds

Subway ridership recovered from the dip experienced during the week of March 12, with ridership ending the week 40.4% below pre-pandemic levels (compared to 43.5% below in the previous week). The omicron variant of COVID-19 has weighed heavily on subway ridership since December, preventing a full recovery in ridership. MTA figures released just before the omicron wave in November showed daily ridership comparable to the same month of 2019. Subway ridership will likely increase over the coming months as cases subside and workplaces reopen. The trailing 7-day average of subway riderships stood at 2.8 million during the week of March 19.

Restaurant Reservations Surge

Restaurant reservations in New York City rose considerably, ending the week 39.5% below pre-pandemic levels, compared to 47% below during the previous week. The increase this week offsets the declines witnessed over the preceding three weeks, roughly matching the levels from late February. As with subway ridership, restaurant reservations remain considerably below pre-pandemic levels, with gains having been gradual. As warmer weather approaches in the spring, and as COVID-19 infection rates continue to decline, we can expect continued recovery in the city’s restaurant industry and outdoor dining scene.

Compared to neighboring states, New York City restaurant reservations still have considerable progress to make. The seven-day trailing average for restaurant reservations in Connecticut is 25% above the pre-pandemic norm, while New Jersey restaurant reservations have also fully recovered from their pandemic-related losses, at 5% above 2019 levels. Restaurants in New York State, meanwhile, are performing only marginally better than their city counterparts, with reservations down 31% from pre-pandemic highs. With the trailing seven-day average of reservations at 60% of the pre-pandemic level, city restaurants remain 40% below their expected business activity under normal circumstances.

Research and analysis by
Adrian Nesta
Adrian Nesta, Research Analyst on the Data Journalism team at Dotdash

Adrian Nesta is a Senior Data Reporter on the Data Journalism team at Dotdash, the digital publisher that owns and operates Investopedia. His work includes data collection, cleaning, analysis, and visualization for stories in the data journalism portfolio across every vertical at Dotdash.

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