Economic Research & Analysis

December 2015 Economic Snapshot

Inside this Volume

Private employment in New York City increased 12,600 between October and November 2015.
The unemployment rate remained at 4.8%, down from 6.5% this time last year.
The Manhattan Class A office vacancy rate fell from 8.6% last month, to 8.0%.
Passengers in New York City area airports totaled 10.8 million in October 2015, up 8.4% from October 2014.
Broadway attendance in November 2015 was up 2.9% from the same period last year.


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#68 Charitable Giving in New York City

This month's podcast looks at New York City's "charitable giving" economy.


  • Private sector jobs in New York City rose by 12,600 in November 2015 following October 2015 gains of 11,050 jobs.
  • Government jobs in the city also rose, resulting in a net overall increase of 13,000 jobs between October and November 2015. Construction had the largest month-to-month growth, adding 3,700 jobs.
  • Since November 2014, private sector employment has risen by 103,100 jobs or 2.8%. This compares to the national growth rate of 2.2%.
  • New York City’s unemployment rate held constant from last month at 4.8%.

Charitable Giving

  • As the headquarters of many of the world’s largest foundations, New York State ranks first in the nation in total charitable giving dollars from major foundations. New York based foundations gave almost $10 billion in grants in 2013 – 18% of the nation’s total and equal to the sum of 34 other states combined1. In addition, five of the nation’s 20 largest foundations are based in New York City (see Figure I). Foundations, Advocacy Groups, and Civic and Social Organizations employ over 38,000 New Yorkers2.

  • New York metro area residents donated, on average, $1,669 in 2014, up 17% in inflation-adjusted dollars from 2004. Those in the top 20% income bracket donated an average of $3,966 or 2.3% of their income, while those in the bottom bracket donated 4.9% of their income3.
  • Nationally, 5.75% of Americans volunteer on any given day, but that number rises to 8% in December. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the value of an hour of volunteering to contribute $23.07 to the economy. Assuming that those who volunteer will do so for two hours, this means that extra volunteering in December will contribute $8.73 million into the New York City economy4.
  • After a brief decline during the recession, grants from foundations are now at an all-time high, totaling almost $10 billion in 2013, up from $7.2 billion in 20105 (See Figure II).

  • In total, NY-based organizations received $3.1 billion worth of grants in 2012 from the largest 1000 foundations. Grants to Health and Education organizations lead the pack, with each sector receiving almost $700 million (see Figure III). Health was also the fastest growing subject area, with 133% growth since 2004. Religion, the Environment, and Arts and Culture grew the least at 8%, 14%, and 23% respectively6.

1 Foundation Center (2013)
2 US Census County Business Patterns, 2013
3 BLS Consumer Expenditure Survey, 2014
4 BLS American Time Use Survey, 2014
5 Foundation Center (2013). Figures in 2012 inflation adjusted dollars.
6 Foundation Center (2012)
7 Only grants from Foundation Center top 1000 Foundations are tracked.

Real Estate and Construction

Real Estate

  • In November 2015, the Manhattan Class A direct vacancy rate decreased from 8.6% to 8.0%, and average rents ticked up from $78 to $79 per square foot.
  • The direct vacancy rate fell across all three major submarkets, with Midtown seeing the largest drop, from 8.3% in October to 7.6% in November. Correspondingly, average rents in Midtown increased from $83 PSF to $85. Average rents held constant Downtown, and rose by $1 in Midtown South.
  • Though the Manhattan sublease vacancy rate fell (1.7% in October versus 1.3% in November), the associated rental rate fell by $11 PSF.

Source: Cushman & Wakefield


For the twelve months ending September 2015: 

  • The number of building projects (including new, additions, and alterations) that started construction in New York City was down 1.2% relative to the twelve month period ending September 2014. Planned space for such projects, however, was 87.3% higher than the same period in 2014, suggesting that building projects have become larger. The value associated with these projects was also up 77.2% over the period.
  • 3,430 residential building projects began construction, a 3.2% increase from the twelve months ending in September 2014. These starts contained 47,530 units, almost double the number from last year.

Source: McGraw Hill Construction
Note: Based on latest available data

Transit, Travel, and Tourism

Transit Ridership

  • Total ridership on MTA subways, trains, and buses in October 2015 was 245.4 million, down 1.72% from October 2014.
  • Subway ridership in October 2015 was 160.0 million, down 0.10% from October 2014.

Source: Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Air Traffic

  • In October 2015, 10.8 million passengers flew into and out of the region's airports, an increase of 8.4% from October 2014.
  • 3.6 million passengers traveled with international air carriers in October 2015, a 5.3% increase from October 2014.
  • Domestic air carriers accounted for 7.1 million passengers, a 10.0% increase from October 2014.

Source: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Broadway Ticket Sales

  • Total Broadway attendance was approximately 1,102,200 during the four weeks ending Nov. 29, 2015, up 2.9% from the same period last year.
  • Broadway revenues during this period were about $115.9 million, up 0.9% from last year.

Source: The Broadway League
Note: Gross revenue and attendance figures include all shows playing on Broadway during the specified period.

Hotel Occupancy

  • In October 2015, the average daily hotel room rate was $361, a 0.3% decrease from October 2014.
  • Hotel occupancy was 92.1% in October 2015, down slightly from 93.0% in October 2014.
  • The average occupancy rate decreased the most in hotels charging over $500 per night, decreasing by 5.9% from October of last year.

Source: PKF Consulting