The New York City Recovery Index: Week of September 7

Tracking NYC's economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic

Editor's note: Below you'll find the week 7 release of the NYC Recovery Index, originally published Sep 8, 2020. Visit the NYC Recovery index homepage for the latest data.


The latest reading of the New York City Recovery Index out of a possible score of 100.

A slight rise in weekly unemployment claims stalled New York City’s economic recovery in the past week, despite gains in other measures we're tracking as part of the NYC Recovery Index. As summer came to an unofficial end with Labor Day weekend, small businesses, particularly restaurants, saw more activity, but persistently high levels of unemployment continue to threaten the recovery. 

The overall Recovery Index weekly score fell 0.2%, dragged down by those unemployment figures which reflect the fact that New York City has among the highest joblessness rate of any city in the country.

Unemployment Claims Rise

Initial unemployment claims (people filing for unemployment for the first time) topped 35,196 for the week of August 29. That’s 1,151 higher than the prior week, and 28,465 people higher or 423% than the same week a year ago. More than six months into the pandemic, New Yorkers continue to lose their jobs at an alarming rate on a weekly basis.

COVID-19 Hospitalizations Decrease

New hospitalizations related to COVID-19 continue to decrease, and New York City has stayed below the 1% new infection rate for a straight month. That’s very encouraging and will be a large factor in the city’s eventual economic recovery. The true test will be in the coming weeks, as New York City public school in-person openings have been postponed until September 21. That delayed opening may have kept some residents from returning to the city in the past two weeks as other economic indicators remain depressed.

Restaurant Reservations Slowly Increase

Restaurant reservations, as reported by OpenTable, continue to increase, albeit slowly. That won’t change until New York City is allowed to open for partial indoor dining. On September 9, Gov. Cuomo announced that indoor dining can resume in the City at 25% capacity as of September 30. The diminished capacity is putting intense pressure on the restaurant industry, which employed as many as 300,000 at the beginning of the year. More than half of those jobs have been lost since then. The 10,000 New York City restaurants that are operating with outdoor seating and curbside pick-up and delivery are operating at 30% of their 2019 capacity, according to the New York City Hospitality Alliance. 

Small Business Openings Rise

Applications for new small businesses spiked last week after declining two weeks prior. These numbers fluctuate heavily on a weekly basis, and studying the data for the past several months has revealed that most of these applications are for single-employee businesses or small national franchises. While these businesses are important to the individuals starting them, and a vibrant part of the city’s economy, we will be retiring this indicator from our index going forward, and replacing it with real estate data. We believe that real estate data is an indicator that impacts nearly all New Yorkers. It is a larger contributor to the city’s tax revenue, and it tells us whether people are moving into or leaving New York City amid the pandemic.

Subway Mobility Holds Steady

Subway usage remains nearly 70% below pre-pandemic levels, but is expected to rise post Labor Day as many residents return to New York. The gains will be subdued as public schools have delayed their in-person start date until September 21 to allow for more virus testing. Commuter traffic into the city should also remain at subdued levels, as many businesses have yet to reopen their offices and millions of people are still working from home.

Data by Amanda Morelli.

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