The New York City Economy Tracker: January 18

The Good: Recreational activities in NYC are experiencing a notable revival

Let’s start our first edition of the New York City Economic Tracker with some good news. This week we decided to focus on Broadway attendance and visits to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, two of the most popular tourist destinations in New York City. We also highlight the city’s gastronomy, which continues to make up lost ground due to the pandemic. The New York City Economic Tracker is a joint project of Investopedia and NY1.

Admissions to Broadway shows — a staple of New York’s entertainment scene — have recovered well through 2022, having started the year nearly 40% below pre-pandemic averages. Average weekly attendance at Broadway shows in December was just 8% below the pre-pandemic average, according to Broadway League data.

Visits to the iconic Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island have also increased sharply, particularly since November, and are now just 6% below their pre-pandemic average covering the corresponding period 2015-2019. This contrasts with a decline of 17% as recently as November.

Eating out in restaurants in New York City has also increased, although not as fast. After a slow and steady increase in 2022, December restaurant reservations were just over 30% below their pre-pandemic moving average — the best since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, according to OpenTable data. The week between Christmas Eve and New Year’s was particularly busy for the city’s catering industry.

The Bad: Subway ridership and office visits have stalled

Now for the bad news, as we track some of the worst performing areas of New York’s economy. Office visits, subway ridership, and home sales are three metrics that have underperformed in recent months.

As of December 2022, office attendance in New York City was still 57% below the pre-pandemic average, according to key Swipe data from building security firm Kastle Systems. That means NYC offices were still more than half empty on any given day of the workweek. The trend shows no sign of improvement as office visits have been declining since November 2022, when they averaged 55.2% of pre-pandemic levels.

Reduced office attendance may indicate a more permanent shift in work preferences since the pandemic began. Fewer than expected employees have returned to the office full-time, with most preferring to work hybrid or fully remote hours.

U-Bahn ridership has developed only slightly better. While ridership on the MTA subway wasn’t as depressed, as of December 2022, it was still nearly 40% below pre-pandemic levels. Rider numbers stagnated for the last four months of 2022, posting minimal gains for the year.

NYC home sales plummet

Home sales in New York City have plummeted in recent months amid rising mortgage rates and a slowing national housing market. In November 2022, home sales for all types of housing in the New York Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) fell an impressive 27.4% year over year. They started 2022 with annual gains of around 10%. Townhouse sales, which were still positive on an annualized basis through September, have slumped in recent months and are now down nearly 33% year over year.