The New York City Recovery Index: May 3

Editor’s note: Below you’ll find the week 39 release of the NYC Recovery Index, originally published May 3, 2021. Visit the NYC Recovery index homepage for the latest data.

New York City’s economic recovery experienced strong positive growth week-over-week as of April 24, rising to a score of 63 — the highest score since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, as well as the largest week-over-week increase. Increases were seen in every measure across the board, particularly unemployment insurance (UI) claims and restaurant reservations. 

As the city continues its vaccine rollout, vaccination rates will remain the primary driver of maintaining declining coronavirus hospitalizations, rising restaurant reservations, and declining UI claims. On Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the easing of pandemic restrictions starting on May 19, which includes lifting curfews for food and beverage service. Twenty-four-hour subway service is slated to resume on May 17.

New York City’s recovery stands at 63 out of a total score of 100, according to the New York City Recovery Index, a joint project between Investopedia and NY1. The index rose 6 points from the prior week. More than one year into the pandemic, New York City’s economic recovery is now roughly over halfway back to early March 2020 levels.

COVID-19 Hospitalizations in Free Fall

New York City experienced a solid decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations, reporting a rolling seven-day average of 131 hospitalizations per 100,000 people for the week of April 24, which is down by 43 hospitalizations from the prior week’s average. The city’s seven-day average hasn’t been this low since Thanksgiving of last year. Though the decline in hospitalizations has at times been slow or uneven, it looks to be roughly tracking with declines seen nationwide. NYC has recorded a total of 931,054 cases and 32,662 deaths, as of May 3.

With vaccinations now open to all adults in New York City, it seems like only a matter of time until continued inoculations result in further substantial declines in the coronavirus hospitalization rates. Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to authorize Pfizer’s vaccine for ages 12–15 sometime this week, which would enable this age group to potentially begin receiving inoculations later this month.

New York state has vaccinated approximately 35% of the population and 43.7% of the currently eligible population (i.e, all adults), as of April 27. The state is projected to have enough vaccines for the entire adult population by July 23, 2021, just over three weeks behind the Biden administration’s deadline. It’s also on pace with vaccination numbers from the week prior to achieve 70% vaccination in July of 2021 — placing it 15th out of 59 U.S. states, municipalities, and territories — according to VeryWell Health.

Unemployment Trending Downward

The year-over-year (YOY) unemployment insurance claims rate fell further as of April 24 and now stands at about a 141% increase from 2019 levels. Approximately 226 fewer people filed claims in New York City than the week prior, for a total of just over 16,000 claims, which is more than twice the number who filed this week in 2019. This comes in below the approximately 18,500 average in March, with UI claims now trending in a positive direction for the third straight week.

On Friday Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an investment of $155 million into small businesses, including $5.5 million for workforce development programming, to better prepare New York City workers for an economy that has been irreparably altered as a result of the pandemic. The hospitality, nightlife, retail, and transportation sectors have shrunk considerably, while health and technology are on the rise. Although some industries, such as tourism and dining, are showing signs of recovering, it’s uncertain how quickly any of these sectors will grow and to what level.

Home Sales Rise

During the week of April 24, pending home sales experienced a YOY increase and now sit 66% higher than 2019 levels. The home buying market in New York City is still running higher than normal YOY for New York City since last August, and is the only index measure to do so.

There are 726 pending home sales for all of New York City, compared to 436 during this same period last year. YOY changes for Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens are up 61%, 74%, and 36%, respectively. Despite both Manhattan and Queens suffering week-over-week home sales decreases, these were offset by major increases in Brooklyn.

Rental Market Vacancies Fall

Although New York City’s rental market has borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to home sales, the former now appears to be experiencing consistent positive drops in vacancies. As of the week of April 24, New York City rental vacancies declined by 1,515 units week-over-week. This decline in vacancies — which now sit at a calendar-year low of 30,157 — pushed the index score up by three points.

As New York City continues its economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the real estate market will be watching to see whether there is an influx of people returning to the city throughout the spring and summer months of 2021 to counterbalance the many departures during the height of the pandemic in 2020.

Subway Ridership Races Ahead

Subway ridership experienced a major increase week-over-week during the week of April 24. The seven-day rolling average was approximately 60% less than during the same period in 2019. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) reported an estimated rolling seven-day average of just over 1.82 million riders on public transport during the week of April 24. If this upward trend in ridership continues, it will outpace normal seasonal growth and push the YOY ridership rate from approximately two-thirds of normal numbers to half that amount. 

Ridership is expected to increase even further as schools close for the summer in the next three weeks, rounding into Memorial Day.

Restaurant Reservations See Major Increase

Restaurant reservations experienced a major increase as of April 24, causing the index measure to rise by over nine points, which more than counterbalanced the prior week’s losses. OpenTable estimates that the rolling seven-day average of seated diners in New York City grew to just over 68% lower than the same period in 2019. This is a much needed increase for one of the industries most adversely affected by COVID-19.

Should this rise in reservations continue, we may witness rates that dwarf the approximately 65% to 75% YOY declines seen during most of the summer of 2020. Future trends throughout the next few months will be critical for determining whether restaurants can potentially increase their capacity along with the warmer weather, a rise in vaccinations, and/or a decline in cases.

New York City restaurants are currently limited to 50% indoor capacity, which is slated to expand to 75% next week, while the rest of the state is limited to 75% capacity for indoor dining.

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