Economic Research & Analysis

February 2012 Economic Snapshot

Inside this Volume

Private employment fell by 7,700 in December 2011 after an increase of 10,400 jobs in November.
The unemployment rate rose to 9.0 percent in December from 8.9 percent in November.
The Manhattan hotel occupancy rate in December 2011 was 87.5 percent, up from 83.6 percent in December 2010.
The Manhattan Class A office vacancy rate was 8.3 percent in January 2012, while the average asking rent was $68 PSF.
Passengers in NYC area airports totaled 8.5 million in November 2011, up 0.2 percent from November 2010.


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#25 NYC's Auction Houses

NYCEDC explores the headline grabbing sales figures that are realized at local auction houses.


  • Private sector jobs in New York City fell by 7,700 in December 2011 after an increase of 10,400 in November.
  • In the same period, government jobs in the City fell by 400, resulting in a decline of 8,000 total private and public sector jobs.
  • Since December 2010, private sector employment has risen by 38,900 jobs or 1.2 percent.
  • The City’s unemployment rate rose to 9.0 percent in December from 8.9 percent in November.
  • Between November and December 2011, the number of employed City residents fell by 100 and the number of unemployed City residents rose by 4,900.

The Importance of NYC’s Auction Houses: Warhol and Picasso vs. 15 CPW and The Plaza

  • New York City is arguably the leading art center in the world, with many of the world’s most prestigious museums, art galleries and auction houses located here. One particular measure where New York City stands out is the headline grabbing sales figures that are realized at local auction houses such as Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips De Pury. In just the two week window of the recent Fall Contemporary and Impressionist art sales held in New York, the three largest auction houses1 totaled over $1.1 billion in sales.
NYC Auction Sales graphic
  • To put these results further into context we compared the top 10 art sales with the top 10 residential sales in New York City in 2011. Sales of blue chip contemporary and modern artists such as Clyfford Still and Roy Lichtenstein were comparable to sales of trophy property, such as 15 Central Park West and the Plaza Hotel.
Top ten art and residential sales graphic
  • Global sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, by far the largest of the auction houses, are estimated to have totaled over $11 billion2 in 2011, with New York City accounting for approximately 33% of the market followed by London (25%) and Hong Kong (15%). Domestically, New York City’s dominance is even more pronounced, with the City accounting for more than 50% of all art sales in the nation based on the most recent data from the 2007 U.S. Retail Census.
  • While sales and revenue figures for this sector are clearly astounding,3 measuring the impact of this sector on the City’s economy is not straightforward. The direct impact of this sector4 in terms of employment is quite small, with annual employment of only 2,400 jobs in 2010, or less than 1% of overall private sector employment. Job growth, however, has far outpaced the private sector average. Employment in this sector is more than 12% higher than in 2000, though down significantly from its peak in 2008.5  Additionally the average annual wage rate in this sector is relatively high at $100,000 compared to the City average of $82,000.
Employment and wages graphic
  • Other impacts are more difficult to isolate and quantify. The auction houses are an integral part of the City’s cultural landscape which contributes to the quality of life of local residents and attracts millions of visitors to the City each year. The recent sale of Elizabeth Taylor’s estate at Christie’s in Rockefeller Center attracted more than 30,000 visitors. Similarly, other high profile auctions attract thousands of visitors. The interaction between artists and businesses such as galleries, museums and auction houses further solidify the City’s position as a dominant cultural and creative center.

1The three aforementioned companies dominate the NYC auction market which also includes a number of smaller houses such as Bonhams, Doyle, and Swann and emerging on-line auction house artnet.
2These estimates are based on the 2011 annual sales figures provided in Christie’s Annual Report and assumes a similar share for Sotheby’s which has yet to report  year-end results.
3The sales tax impacts of auctions are difficult to quantify given the confidentiality of buyers. The sales tax revenue depends on where the buyers reside or receive the purchases, rather than where sales occur. City sales taxes are estimated at roughly $40 million.
4Employment as measured by the North American Industry Classification (NAICS) code 453920 also includes art dealers and galleries.
5While employment in this sector is still below its peak art market sales, particularly the very high-end, held up relatively well in the downturn as noted in a recent Bloomberg article “Hirst, Warhol Prices Outperform S&P 500 in Art-Investment Index. (Art Investment Index courtesy of artnet.)

Real Estate and Construction

Manhattan Office Market

  • In January 2012, the Manhattan Class A direct vacancy rate rose to 8.3 percent from 7.9 percent in December 2011 while the average rental rate remained at $68 PSF.
  • In the same month, the Downtown Class A direct vacancy rate rose to 8.0 percent and the rental rate rose to $46 PSF.
  • The Manhattan Class A sublease vacancy rate remained at 7.9 percent between December and January.

Source: Cushman & Wakefield


For the twelve months ending December 2011:

  • Building projects (including new, additions and alterations) that started construction in NYC increased by 18.2 percent and infrastructure (non-building) project starts rose by 9.2 percent from the twelve months ending December 2010.
  • Planned space for building project starts rose by 2.3 percent from the same period in 2010.
  • 2,512 residential building projects with 11,233 units of housing started construction, increases of 13.6 percent and 27.3 percent, respectively over the period.

Source: McGraw Hill Construction

Tourism, Travel, and Transit

Transit Ridership

  • Total ridership on MTA subways, trains and buses in December 2011 was 224.3 million, an increase of 4.3 percent from December 2010.
  • Subway ridership in December 2011 was 142.0 million, an increase of 4.5 percent from December 2010.

Source: Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Air Traffic

  • In November 2011, 8.5 million passengers flew into and out of the region's airports, an increase of 0.2 percent from November 2010.
  • Domestic air carriers accounted for 5.8 million passengers, which was the same as in November 2010.
  • 2.7 million passengers traveled with international air carriers in November 2011, a 0.7 percent increase from November 2010.

Source: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Broadway Ticket Sales

  • Total Broadway attendance was approximately 1.2 million during the five weeks ending January 25, 2012, up 19.3 percent from the same period last year.
  • Broadway revenue during this period was about $119.3 million, up 24.9 percent from last year.

Source: The Broadway League

Hotel Occupancy

  • In December 2011, the average daily hotel room rate was $324, a 0.5 percent increase from December 2010.
  • Hotel occupancy was 87.5 percent in December 2011, up from 83.6 percent in December 2010.
  • The average daily hotel room rate increased the most in mid-priced hotels (charging between $250 and $350 per night).

Source: PKF Consulting