Research Special Topics

Consumer Spending during the COVID-19 Outbreak

May 2020

A bi-weekly update on changes in consumer spending in New York City to understand which of the city’s industries and businesses are most impacted by COVID-19.


May 3-9: Overall Consumer Spending

Consumer spending in New York City declined 5% year-over-year.

City spending returned to the closest level to 2019 since the onset of COVID-19 began dampening spending during the week ending March 21. Sales have recovered from the severest declines registered in late March, when a “shelter in place” order and rapid increases in new cases held year-over-year spending growth to -44%.

New York City spending accelerated beginning the week ending April 25, the week during which eligible consumers began receiving government stimulus payments. Additional payments have been issued in subsequent weeks. As of an April 29 IRS update, 87% of all payments have been issued, including 7.7 million stimulus payments totaling $12.5 billion sent to New York state residents.

Note: Excludes auto sales. Data reflects year-over-year growth rates in seven-day moving averages.

Aggregated consumer spending data is provided by Mastercard. Mastercard SpendingPulse™ provides market intelligence based on national retail sales across all payment types. Findings are based on aggregated sales activity in the Mastercard payments network, coupled with survey-based estimates for certain other payment forms, such as cash and check.

Top Performing New York City Industries

  • Home improvement posted the strongest growth of any major category for the week ending May 9, with spending up 25% relative to the same week in 2019.
  • Grocery posted 9% growth and was the only sector with higher sales than the previous week.

Underperforming New York City Industries

  • Spending on lodging dropped 78% during the week ending May 9, the largest decline of any category. City lodging sales growth has been negative for over three months, bottoming out at -93.4% year-over-year growth during the week ended March 28. According to data analytics firm STR, city hotel occupancy was 44% for the week ending May 9, a marked improvement from 15% occupancy posted during the week ending March 28.
  • Restaurants posted another week of sales declines, with spending down 47% compared to the same week in 2019. Restaurant sales growth has been negative since the second week of March.


Grocery was the only major category with higher sales than the previous week. The spike in weekly sales for the week ending April 4 marks an acceleration of spending across every category, likely due to increased consumer activity leading up to the Easter holiday. Lodging spending (not shown) increased six-fold during the week ending April 4 relative to the preceding week.


Mastercard produces weekly SpendingPulse™ reports on national retail sales that include data on additional sectors, macroeconomic indicators and expert analysis of current market conditions and forecasts of future spending. Mastercard occasionally makes adjustments to statistical estimation techniques and may restate historic data.


Mastercard SpendingPulse™ is a suite of macroeconomic and industry data services that provide national and regional measures of the U.S. retail economy. SpendingPulse™ reports are based on the aggregated sales activity of the Mastercard U.S. payments network, coupled with estimates on all other payments forms including cash and check. Mastercard adjust the aggregate Mastercard data for variables that can skew the information, such as changing number of cards in the country, so that Mastercard are extracting the noise in the data that is due to Mastercard performance rather than actual retail economic activity.


SpendingPulse™ information and content or portions thereof may not be accessed, downloaded, copied, modified, distributed, used or published in any form or media, except as authorized by Mastercard. SpendingPulse™ content is intended solely as a research tool for informational purposes and not as investment advice or recommendations for any particular action or investment and should not be relied upon, in whole or in part, as the basis for decision-making or investment purposes. SpendingPulse™ content is not guaranteed as to accuracy and is provided on an “AS IS” basis to authorized users, who review and use this information at their own risk.