Has Manhattan Recovered Yet?
This year, for the first time since the towers crumbled, New York City's economy outperformed the nation's. The average price for a Manhattan condo or co-op broke the $1 million mark, a new record. Norma's, a midtown restaurant, introduced a $1,000 omelet. (Hardly anyone ate it, but it hearkened back to the '90s in an oddly comforting way.) And the tourists returned, God bless them, one and all.
But Manhattan is still not the same as it was. Yes, it has pulled back from the precipice with remarkable speed. But jobs are missing, the kinds of jobs that have historically made it more resilient than other U.S. cities. So far, the recovery has been in tourism and health care. Good jobs but not fantastic--not Wall Street jobs, that is.
Looking back, it's clear the trouble actually began eight months before 9/11, when the city's recession started. But unemployment stayed below 8% until the attacks cratered tourism and finance, two pillars of New York's economy. The hits that came next--war, corporate scandals, declining stocks and low consumer confidence--prolonged the slump. From September 2001 to January 2004, the city lost some 138,200 jobs. Unemployment rose to 8.6% in January 2003, when nationally the rate was 5.8%.
The finance sector is now slowly recovering--but not so much in New York, as firms hire elsewhere. "Wall Street is not coming back as an industry," says Martin Kohli, a regional economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's alarming because finance workers make a lot of money--so much money that the city's economy more or less depends on their success. Between 2000 and 2002, 1 of every 4 Manhattan jobs lost was in finance or insurance. In fact, the only industry to have truly rebounded is hospitality and leisure. This year, 39.4 million visitors are expected--an all-time high. In June, hotel occupancy was at nearly 88%--higher than before 9/11. But the tourists are spending less. While Americans have been thronging New York, 2 million fewer foreigners visited in 2003 than in 2000. And they are the really big spenders. Ultimately, economists say, a rehabilitated Manhattan may require things money can't buy: less war and more global stability.
How Are the Survivors Doing?
New York City is engaged in America's first experiment with a mass-casualty disaster that has no end point. Manhattan residents say they are using more cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana since 9/11, and they remain worried about new attacks, according to research by the New York Academy of Medicine. But although free counseling is available, the people using it are largely the ones who saw therapists before 9/11. Most New Yorkers believe they can endure on their own. And many are doing a good job of it. LifeNet, the main mental-health referral hotline in the city, is getting 600 calls a month related to 9/11, down from 1,000 a month last year.
But as with Vietnam vets, the ability of New Yorkers to process a trauma depends largely on how close people were to the carnage. Researchers have created a matrix called the World Trade Center Exposure Scale to measure this. They've learned that exposure can mean having watched the towers collapse through a window--or on TV, over and over.