Economic Research & Analysis

February 2016 Economic Snapshot

Inside this Volume

Private employment in New York City rose by 35,400 between December 2015 and January 2016.
The unemployment rate rose by 0.1% to 5.3% from one month prior.
The Manhattan Class A office vacancy rate was 8.4% in January 2016, while the average asking rent was $80 PSF.
Hotel occupancy was 89.0% in December 2015, down from 90.2% in December 2014
Passengers in New York City area airports totaled 10.5 million in December 2015, up 4.0% from December 2014.


Audio Resources


#70 Small Businesses in New York City

This month's podcast looks at small businesses in New York City.


  • Private sector jobs in New York City rose by 35,400 in January 2016, after a gain of 200 jobs in December 2015.
  • Government jobs in the city fell by 300, resulting in a net overall increase of 35,100 total private and public sector jobs in January.
  • Since January 2015, private sector employment has risen by 107,000 jobs, or 3.0%.
  • New York City’s unemployment rate was 5.3% in January, up from 5.2% one month prior, but down from 6.3% in January 2015.

  • Small businesses, defined as establishments with less than 500 workers, employed 1.7 million people in Q4 of 2014, representing 48.2% of the NYC labor force.
  • Of the 1.7 million small business jobs in NYC, 40% were in firms that employed between 0-19 individuals (~698,000) (See Figure I). The largest share of businesses this size were in the Accommodation and Food Services industry (13.5%), with a near majority of these establishments located in Manhattan. The Retail Trade sector accounted for 13.3% of employment for businesses with 0-19 employees, with a nearly equal number of businesses located in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Figure I. Share of Employment by Size, Q4 2014

  • Post-recession job growth has been strong for small businesses. Businesses with 20-49 employees experienced a growth of 15.3% between 2009 and 2014 and establishments with 0-19 employees grew by 13.8% during this time. Businesses with 250-499 experienced the weakest growth between 2009 and 2014 (5.9%) (See Figure II).

Figure II. Indexed Growth of Small Businesses by Employment Size, 2007-2014

  • In NYC 211,048 individuals were self-employed at their own incorporated business in 2014. Nearly 97,000 of these were owned by individuals born outside the United States. While foreign-born individuals comprised 33.3% of the NYC population in 2014, they owned 45.8% of these incorporated businesses. This suggests immigrants start businesses at higher rates than natives in NYC. The largest share of foreign-born small business owners came from China (8.6%), followed by Korea (7.6%), India (7.5%), Dominican Republic (5.2%), Jamaica (3.4%), Russia (3.2%), Italy (3.2%), Ecuador (2.9%), Israel (2.5%), and Greece (2.3%).
  • The percent of small businesses owned by women grew from 27.1% in 2005 to 30.7% in 2014 (See Figure III). This rate was comparable between native and foreign born female businesses owners (31.6% female ownership versus 29.6%, respectively). The female share of ownership varies by country of origin, with rates ranging from 16.7% (Italy) to 44.8% (Dominican Republic) (See Figure IV).
    1As defined by those who live or work in NYC.

Figure III. Female Business Ownership, 2014

Figure IV. Share of Female Business Ownership by Country of Origin, 2014

Real Estate and Construction

Manhattan Office Market

  • In February 2016, the Manhattan Class A direct vacancy rate rose to 8.4% from 8.3% one month prior, while the average rental rate fell from $81 to $80 during this same time.
  • The Midtown South Class A sublease vacancy rate fell from 0.9% in January to 0.2% in February, while the direct vacancy rate held steady at 3.1%.
  • The Downtown Class A direct rental rate rose to $65 PSF in February 2016—up from $64 PSF one month prior.

Source: Cushman and Wakefield


For the twelve months ending January 2016:

  • Building projects (including new, additions, and alterations) that started construction in NYC rose by 13.9% while infrastructure (non-building) project starts were down 11.6% from the twelve months ending January 2015.
  • The total value of construction projects grew by 56.7%, reaching over $42 billion from the twelve months ending in January 2015 with a corresponding growth by 94.1% in square footage. Nonresidential buildings experienced the strongest growth in project values since January 2015 (79.1%).
  • Of the 7,497 building projects that began construction, 3,490 were residential projects, representing a 21.7% increase from the twelve months ending in January 2015. These starts contained 53,625 units, up 11.3% from the preceding twelve months.

Source: McGraw-Hill

Transit, Travel, and Tourism

Transit Ridership

  • Total ridership on MTA subways, trains, and buses in December 2015 was 231.0 billion, a 0.2% increase from December 2014.
  • Subway ridership in December 2015 was 150.8 million, up 0.4% from December 2014.

Source: Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Air Traffic

  • In December 2015, 10.5 million passengers flew into and out of the region’s airports, representing an increase of 4.0% from December 2014.
  • Domestic air carriers account for 65.9% of these flights, with 6.9 million passengers, a 4.5% increase from December 2014 and resulting in over 80 million total passengers throughout 2015.
  • The region’s airports transported a total of 192,867 tons of freight in December 2015, nearly 60% of which was from international flights.

Source: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Broadway Ticket Sales

  • Total Broadway attendance was 1,129,475 during the five weeks ending January 31, 2016 and 945,818 for the four weeks ending February 28, 2016. While January sales attendance was up 7.6% from January 2015, February attendance was up over 18% from February of last year.
  • Broadway revenues in January were up 4.2% from last year at this time, reaching $135.2 million. February Broadway revenues were $90.7 million, which represented a 9.2% increase from February 2015.

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

Hotel Occupancy

  • In December 2015, the average daily hotel room rate was $322 a 5.5% decrease from December 2014.
  • Hotel occupancy was 89.0% in December 2015, down from 90.2% in December 2014.
  • The average daily hotel room rate decreased the most in hotels charging between $300 and $375 per night.