Research Special Topics

Signs of Progress

September 2020


The Partnership compiled updated indicators of the city’s economic progress in its recovery from COVID-19. While a long road lies ahead, increases in employment, new business creation, sales tax revenue and public transit ridership highlight improvements in the city’s economic health in recent weeks.

Key Statistics

Unemployment Rates, August

  • NYC: 16.0%, down from 19.9% in July
  • NYS: 12.5%, down from 15.9% in July
  • US: 8.4%, down from 10.2% in July


  • New York City employment increased by 148,000 individuals in August 2020, from 3.21 million in July to 3.35 million in August.
  • Private sector industries with the largest employment growth in August included:
    • Arts and entertainment: 15% increase from July
    • Accommodation and food services: 7%
    • Transportation: 4%
    • Construction: 4%

City Finances

  • New York City collected $577 million in sales tax in August.
    • Up 2% from July and the highest month of local sales tax collections since March.
  • Delinquencies on real estate property tax payments for the first quarter of the current city fiscal year were 4.7%, up slightly from 4.0% during the same period in 2019.
    • The increase in delinquencies was smaller than many anticipated, according to the City Comptroller’s office.

Unemployment Claims

  • 36,465 initial unemployment claims filed during the week ending Sept. 12.
    • Down from a peak of 184,525 claims filed during the week ending April 11.
    • The number of initial unemployment claims has hovered around 35,000 claims for five weeks.
  • 84% of unemployment claims have been filed by residents outside of Manhattan.

Business Licenses

  • 189 business licenses were issued in August, up 2% from 186 licenses issued in July.
  • The number of new business licenses has increased for three consecutive months and is up 226% since May, suggesting business confidence has improved.

Note: Includes licenses issued by the NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection.

MTA Ridership

  • Subway ridership surpassed 1.68 million riders on Friday, Sept. 11, the highest level since mid-March.
  • While subway ridership is 69% below 2019 levels as of Thursday, Sept. 17, weekday ridership has averaged 1.54 million in September.
    • Up 16% from an average of 1.32 million in August and up 244% from 447,000 in April.


  • Bus ridership surpassed 1.36 million on Wednesday, Aug. 26, the highest level since mid-March.
    • Bus ridership declined at the beginning of September due to the resumption of fare collection beginning Aug. 31.
  • Bus ridership was 1.1 million as of Sept. 17, down 51% from the same day a year ago but up 6% from the preceding week.


  • Long Island Rail Road ridership was 90,600 on Tuesday, Sept. 8, the highest level since mid-March.
  • While ridership is 73% below 2019 levels as of Sept. 17, average weekday ridership has increased each week since late April.


  • Metro-North ridership was 61,500 on Sept. 17, down 79% from the same day a year ago.
  • Average weekday ridership has increased each week since early August and is up by more than 350% since early April.

Bridges and Tunnels

  • Vehicles traveling via MTA-operated bridges and tunnels totaled 848,000 as of Sept. 17, down 9% from the same day a year ago.
  • The number of vehicles using MTA-operated bridges and tunnels during weekdays, which declined to a low of 285,600 during the second week of April, has recovered more quickly than other modes of transportation.