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The New York City Recovery Index: May 30

Tracking NYC's economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic

Editor's note: Below you'll find the week 91 release of the NYC Recovery Index, originally published May 31, 2022. Visit the NYC Recovery index homepage for the latest data.

New York City’s economic recovery index rose for the week ending May 21, 2022, reaching 75 out of 100 points. It was an encouraging week for the city’s economic recovery, as the COVID-19 hospitalization rate declined for the first time in over two months. Positive momentum extended to subway ridership and restaurant reservations, as both recorded healthy week-over-week gains. On the downside, there was a slight regression in the city’s real estate market, as both home sales and rental vacancies declined.

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 Decline

COVID-19 hospitalizations declined in New York City as the rate of hospitalizations fell slightly to 90 per day, down from 92 recorded during the week of May 14. This marks the first decline in the hospitalization rate in over two months, following nine consecutive weeks of increases driven by rising infection rates and the spread of omicron subvariants. During this time, the COVID-19 hospitalization rate quintupled from a post-omicron low of 18 per day recorded on March 12, to a peak of 92 recorded last week. This week’s decline is an encouraging sign indicating that hospitalizations may have peaked. The current rate of 90 hospitalizations per day roughly matches the level of early December 2021.

The CDC continues to project that 100% of cases in the New York region, which encompasses New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, are attributable to the omicron variant. The BA.2.12.1 strain, which has largely driven infections and hospitalizations over the past two months, now accounts for 78% of all new cases. Amid continued high infection rates, the share of fully vaccinated residents continues to rise, with 78.6% of New York City residents now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to NYC Health data. Since the start of the pandemic over two years ago, just under 2.5 million cases and 40,409 deaths have been recorded in the city.

Unemployment Claims Fall Further

Unemployment insurance (UI) claims declined for the third consecutive week, to 5,070 claims compared to 5,870 claims during the preceding week. However, UI claims declined by a substantially greater amount during the same week of 2019, registering a fall of 2,780 claims. As such, unemployment claims are now just 4% below the comparable 2019 levels, compared to 27% a week prior. With claims remaining at or below pre-pandemic levels, the city’s labor market has made a full recovery.

Home Sales Continue to Decline

Pending home sales in New York City continued to fall, marking the third consecutive week of declines. Pending home sales declined by 67 week-over-week, with 585 home sales recorded citywide during the week of May 21. Despite the recent declines, home sales remain well above pre-pandemic levels and therefore are considered fully recovered. By borough, Brooklyn sales overtook those of Manhattan, with sales in the borough 40% above 2019 levels. Manhattan and Queens follow with sales 32% and 29% above their pre-pandemic baselines, respectively.

Rental Availability Falls Slightly

Available vacancies in the city’s real estate market fell slightly during the week of May 21, registering a decline of 193 units to total 13,513. The rental availability subindex remained unchanged at 77 out of 100, as rental vacancies currently lag the pre-pandemic norm by roughly 2,000 rental units. This week’s decline marks the first in several weeks, and an exception to the seasonal trend as rental vacancies typically increase with the arrival of summer.

Office occupancy rates in Midtown and other neighborhoods of Manhattan remain at historic lows two years into the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, the majority of the borough’s offices were dependent upon the five-day-a-week commuter traveling in from outside the city. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the New York metropolitan area had the longest pre-pandemic average commute time at 37.7 minutes. Today, it has one of the country’s lowest office occupancy rates, with hybrid and remote work proving especially popular among the city’s office workers. As of May 18, office keycard swipes were down by 62% compared to early 2020 levels, according to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal and building access company Kastle Systems. Businesses catering to commuters have closed while retail vacancies in Midtown Manhattan have soared.

Subway Ridership Accelerates

Subway ridership in New York City continued to increase during the week of May 21, with the seven-day average now just 37.6% below the pre-pandemic norm. Subway ridership has recorded positive momentum in recent weeks, as passenger totals are now less than 40% below the pre-pandemic average. Ridership now exceeds the pre-omicron high of early November 2021, recording the best result thus far in the city’s ongoing recovery. For the week, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) recorded a trailing seven-day average of 2.95 million daily riderships.

Ridership levels have broadly increased across all modes of public transport in New York City since the start of 2022, with particularly strong gains in the city’s outer boroughs and surrounding suburbs. Ridership gains for the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) and Metro North Railroad have exceeded those of the city’s subway network, rising by 69.9% and 76.2%, respectively. MTA subway ridership lagged slightly, yet still increased at a healthy rate of 61.2% year-to-date.

Restaurant Reservations Surge

New York City’s restaurant industry recorded a stellar week, with reservations throughout the city’s dining establishments surging to just 33.1% below the pre-pandemic norm, compared to 39.6% last week. This week’s gain marks the largest week-over-week increase since late March. This week’s score marks the best result for restaurant reservations during the pandemic era, exceeding the previous high point of November 2021. Momentum for the city’s restaurant industry appears bright, as the arrival of summer and peaking of COVID-19 infection rates should serve as a tailwind for further increases in reservations.

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