Did the Pandemic Affect New York’s Moving Trends? 

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With the pandemic taking by storm the entire planet, and ”work from home” becoming the new reality, the likelihood that more workers would move out of big cities increased, potentially reshuffling the map of thriving and dying areas in the American economy. 

In the middle of the pandemic, New York movers found themselves busier than ever, with tens of thousands of people moving in and out of the city, be it for safety reasons, for bigger spaces, or just because, in the haze of it all, it felt like the more convenient thing to do. However, as things are slowly going back to normal, this trend seems to have reversed. 

Here’s what we learned about moving trends since the beginning of the pandemic.

Why The Pandemic Drove People Away 

The pandemic has sparked a frenzy for suburban housing, fueled in part by people seeking more room for their families as remote working and virtual schooling enter their lives. Longer-distance moves from New York City contributed to the city having the biggest population decrease of any state in the US last year, putting the state on track for its first population decrease of any decade since the 1970s.

The pandemic has closed theatres, emptied offices, halted tourism, and turned shopping and dining into real hazards, gutting industries that employed a fifth of the city’s workforce. As many as a third of the city’s small businesses could not even survive the pandemic and close for good and most companies in the city’s downtown do not expect staff to ever return to the office in full force. And that’s not all. Many companies have chosen to completely relocate, further putting a strain on New York’s academy. This whole scenario has pushed the city’s unemployment rate to more than 12%, nearly double the national average, expanded the ranks of the homeless, and prompted the departure of more than 300,000 people.

Because of the pandemic’s development of remote employment, the city is now competing with even more areas for businesses and families – trends that are unlikely to reverse even when life returns to normal. With a lot of people now having the option to work remotely raised the question of whether or not is it even worth it to pay high rents for small spaces when they quite literally have endless possibilities for cheaper living in less hectic areas. And if fact, aside from moving to suburbs, many young people chose to relocate either to more exotic destinations or move back home.  

One thing has been certain regarding COVID-19: the virus spreads quicker among people who are in near proximity, considering that it can float through the air in tiny moisture droplets or penetrate your system through contact with an infected person. To make matters even more complicated, many people are asymptomatic, which means they are contagious but do not feel or appear sick. Densely populated cities and crowded spaces pose a higher risk of spreading and contracting COVID-19 and make it much harder to maintain safe distance measures. With that in mind, it’s not surprising that people would prefer to migrate to areas with fewer people, where the risk of infection might be lower.

However, for some of the people living in the suburban area long-term, the exodus from cities came with a profitable opportunity. With the boom in the housing market providing the opportunity to sell homes for a good profit, many have started listing their properties and relocating into city apartments, reversing the urban outflow trend. 

How The Vaccines Are Bringing Them Back

As we’ve come to learn, most trends don’t last for long! People can’t seem to stay away from the New York charm for too long. Maybe there was an exodus out of New York City during the pandemic, but with vaccines on the rise and the economy struggling to recover, inhabitants are returning in greater numbers than before the pandemic.

Unacast, a location-data provider, reports that migration to New York is expanding twice as quickly as it did in 2019. Unacast discovered that the city expanded by 1,900 inhabitants in January and February 2021, while it shrank by 7,100 persons during the same period in 2019. They also discovered that the trend of people returning to the city began in the third quarter of 2020, following months of New Yorkers leaving for other regions of the country.

The return to New York in 2021 is already being reflected in real estate sales and rentals.

Not only are first-time homebuyers returning to New York but also renters that left in the beginning of the pandemic. 

With restrictions for certain activities being lifted, the city will slowly but surely recover to its vibrant self. NYC has been the heart of both the COVID-19 pandemic and a national economic collapse, with the biggest job losses among the nation’s 82 metro cities. But a worse economy means a poorer rental market, and median asking rents in Manhattan had already fallen to $2,880 in October, the lowest level since 2010. Rental demand will not return to pre-pandemic levels until jobs are restored, and re-creating more than 500,000 employment could take far longer than effectively implementing a vaccine but for many people this represents a good opportunity to either come back to the city or leave the suburban life for a more exciting and possibility-ridden one.

Experts anticipate that in time, New York will be back to its bustling self, thanks to its solid mix of arts, job opportunities and its history of reacting to crises. The city will remain one of the few places in the country where people can eat the best food in the world on any budget, attend a free concert, grab a late-night drink in a bar, or watch performances in one of the city’s 640 theaters. The pandemic has rendered these chances unavailable, but as soon as people are able to congregate again, they will recall that there is no place like New York City. 

With the vaccine now available and the process of herd immunity slowly forming, there are plenty of New Yorkers moving back for concerns about the death of the city to dissipate.

About the Author

Michaela Smith is the marketing manager at Empire Movers NYC, a well-established residential and commercial moving company with over 15 years of experience in the New York market. The views regarding moving trends are based on personal experiences, helping thousands of clients move since the beginning of the pandemic. 


Welcome to the Night Helper Blog. The Night Helper Blog was created in 2008. Since then we have been blessed to partner with many well-known Brands like Best Buy, Fisher Price, Toys "R" US., Hasbro, Disney, Teleflora, ClearCorrect, Radio Shack, VTech, KIA Motor, MAZDA and many other great brands. We have three awesome children, plus four adorable very active grandkids. From time to time they too are contributors to the Night Helper Blog. We enjoy reading, listening to music, entertaining, travel, movies, and of course blogging.

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