Economic Research & Analysis

December 2016 Economic Snapshot: The Economics of Culture and Charity

Inside this Volume

Private employment in New York City fell by 800 between October and November 2016
Losses were led by the wholesale trade industry, which shed 2,200 jobs
The unemployment rate fell to 5.7%
MTA subway and bus ridership declined 6.3% between October 2015 and 2016
Hotel room rates are down 4.4% from last year


Audio Resources


#80 The Economics of Culture and Charity in New York City

Ever wonder how many charities there are in New York City - or how many people they employ? Ever consider how much money your favorite museums bring in? Simon and Andrew discuss the recent employment numbers and explore the economics of culture and giving in the final podcast of 2016.


  • New York City private sector jobs fell by 800 in November 2016, following October losses of 12,550.
  • From October to November, the unemployment rate fell to 5.7% from 5.9%.
  • Public sector jobs grew by 300, resulting in overall losses of 500 payroll jobs between October and November 2016.
  • Health Care and Social Assistance led the job growth in November, adding 5,500 jobs last month and 18,900 since November 2015.
  • The highest losses occurred in the in the Trade sector, which saw losses in both Wholesale Trade and Retail from the previous month. While Retail Trade is down for the year, Wholesale trade had been performing well until last month, with total employment up 4% from November 2015.
  • Finance and Insurance also experienced job losses—mostly led by the Banking sector—which is down 2.8% over the year. Securities recovered 100 jobs in November but are still down 1.2% from the same month in 2015.

The Economics of Culture and Charity in New York City

Museums and Historical Sites employed nearly 14,000 people in 2015; the most common of these positions being protective service workers making up roughly 2,000 of these jobs. Museum employment is also highly seasonal (Figure I) with employment peaking in the summer months. Several factors could explain this trend; for example, leisure tourism tends to spike during the summer months, and students are not attending school and may have more time to visit local museums and historical sites.

Cultural institutions—spanning from art museums to religious organizations—are an integral part of New York City life, and are enjoyed by both residents and visitors alike. According to NYC & Company, more than one-fifth of domestic tourists and more than half of overseas visitors attended a museum or gallery while in the region in 2015. International visitors typically stay longer (9.0 days for overseas visitors, compared to 2.1 for domestic) and have more time to visit cultural institutions. Many international tourists visit museums and galleries, but Australians attend them at the highest rates (about 68%). Australians also visit historical locations, cultural heritage sites, plays, and musicals at the highest frequency of any of the surveyed countries. While the Swiss have the lowest rate of museum and art gallery attendance (36%), they attend the third most plays and musicals, only behind Australia and Brazil.

New York City’s leading cultural institutions include some of the world’s most renowned museums and performing art companies. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met), for example, regularly generates the highest revenue of the any of the city’s cultural institutions. In 2013 (the latest year for which IRS data is available) The Met’s incomes totaled $631.6 million, which includes tickets, contributions, asset sales, and other sources. The Met continues to experience steady growth, with revenues and assets up 34.4% and 8.4%, respectively, from 20111.

Half of the city’s top ten revenue-earning cultural institutions are museums, and four are performing arts organizations. The city’s most prominent museums have seen positive revenue growth in recent years; however, the city’s major performing arts centers have experienced falling revenues over a similar period.

There were 2,758 religious organizations (churches, mosques, synagogues, etc.) employing 32,700 people in New York City in 2014. Over the past decade, the number of religious institutions has grown by half a percentage point every year, equivalent to roughly 166 new religious establishments each year. While there were only 1,200 charitable institutions employing 19,500 people in 2014), the number of giving-oriented groups has grown at an annual rate of 4.0%, about four times faster than the average rate of business growth over that period.

[1] Two-year trends are used to smooth the high year-to-year volatility of non-profit revenues.

Real Estate & Construction

Manhattan Office Market

  • The Manhattan Class A office market loosened slightly in November 2016. The direct vacancy rate rose to 8.9% (from 8.6% in October 2016). Direct average rents fell last month to $80.82 per square foot from $81.49.
  • These trends were broad-based across Manhattan commercial submarkets.


For the twelve months ending September 2016:

  • The number of construction projects rose by 11.9%. This growth was led by non-residential projects, which increased 14.5% from the twelve months ending September 2015.

  • Both the value and square footage of construction projects were down from last year’s totals. Total new building square footage was down 29.6% while the corresponding value of new building projects was down 23.3%. These drops were led by falling residential project sizes.

  • September 2016 saw the starts for 1,822 dwelling units across the City and 29,751 units over the last twelve months. This is down 37.4% from the prior twelve months.

Source: Dodge Data & Analytics
Note: based on latest available data

Transit, Travel, and Tourism

Transit Ridership

  • Total ridership on MTA New York City subways and buses was 205.1 million in October 2016, a 6.3% decrease from October 2015. This is the largest year-over-year drop in 2016. The drop was led by declining bus ridership, which fell 7.4% from last year.

  • All MTA divisions—including commuter rails and bridges and tunnels—experienced declines from October 2015. Total ridership for MTA divisions was down 6.0% from last year at 231.4 million.

Source: Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Travel and Tourism

Air Traffic

  • In October 2016, 10.9 million passengers flew into and out of the New York City region’s airports, an increase of 1.6% from October 2015.
  • In a reverse of the year’s trends, passenger growth was driven by international flights, which carried 3.8 million passengers (up 3.4% from the previous year).
  • Freight transport increased at regional airports, rising 2.3% from October 2016. This increase was led by international freight (up 5.2%) while domestic freight contracted 3.1% from October 2015.

Source: Port Authority of New York

Broadway Ticket Sales

  • Broadway ticket revenues totaled $116.3 million in November 2016, a 0.3% increase from the same period in 2015.
  • Attendance in November totaled 1,046,355, a drop of 5.1% from the prior year. Ticket prices—which rose from $105 per ticket on average to $111—stabilized total Broadway revenues.

Source: The Broadway League
Note: Gross revenue and attendance figures may not include all shows

Hotel Occupancy

  • In August 2016, the average daily hotel room rate was $249, a 4.4% decrease from August 2015; this is the fifth consecutive month of year-over-year price decreases.

Source: PKF Consulting
Note: Based on latest available data