We're still in a second home recovery

·Senior Markets Editor
·3 min read

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Friday, June 25, 2021

Suburbs have been outpacing cities and vacation homes are outpacing primary residences.

The economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic has been robust, but uneven, which is not news to anybody paying attention.

But a recent report from Yelp puts some numbers to the feeling many of us have had that, for a certain type of upwardly-mobile professional with financial means and an ability to work remotely, this work from home period has almost doubled as a vacation.

Sort of.

On Wednesday, Yelp published data tracking consumer interest across its platform, and found a near-complete recovery relative to 2019 levels has been made across many categories and regions. And in some states and metro areas, the economy is doing significantly better than before the pandemic. Notably, many of these metros are also popular vacation spots where many urban dwellers have decamped.

"The most recovered cities compared to pre-pandemic spring 2019, include Kill Devil Hills, NC (recovered to 138%), Jackson, WY (recovered to 132%), Vineyard Haven, MA (recovered to 113%), and St. George, UT (recovered to 137%)," the firm wrote.

"Among the least recovered cities are more populous metros — New York City (recovered to 65%), New Orleans (recovered to 67%), Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN (recovered to 72%), as well as San Francisco and Oakland (recovered to 75%)," Yelp added.

And who wouldn't want to trade New York for Martha's Vineyard, and San Francisco for Jackson Hole, when your company's office is closed?

Other vacation-heavy spots flagged by Yelp as rebounding more strongly during the pandemic were the Jersey Shore, Napa Valley, Key West, and South Padre Island off the south Texas coast in the Gulf of Mexico. A quick look at this map from Yelp, and we see more second-home heavy locales in the Mountain West booming as college towns in the Midwest also lagged during the pandemic.

Metros clustered around vacation spots have recovered far more quickly than those near major cities like New York, Seattle, and San Francisco during the pandemic. (Source: Yelp)
Metros clustered around vacation spots have recovered far more quickly than those near major cities like New York, Seattle, and San Francisco during the pandemic. (Source: Yelp)

But the drumbeat of employers calling workers back to offices continues to grow louder. Here in the New York City metro area, several financial firms have clearly mapped out their plans and expectations for employees to return to work. Meanwhile, new lease signings in NYC have surged through the spring, following a year characterized by landlords practically paying tenants to sign on the dotted line.

A normal academic year should help Champaign, IL and Madison, WI — two notable laggards in the recovery — grow again in 2021, while more tourism and a full Mardi Gras in 2022 should put New Orleans on the path to exceeding 2019's economic output.

Losing a year of students, or tourists, or office workers, however, cannot be undone. As Fed Chair Jay Powell famously said in the spring, you can only go out to dinner once per night.

And while total GDP output might already be at pre-pandemic levels, the labor market tells us how unequally some of these gains are being distributed. The economy right now might be running hot relative to what we'd come to expect in the post-financial crisis recovery, but this expansion will need to last longer, or run a lot hotter, before we can talk about everything coming all the way back.

By Myles Udland, reporter and anchor for Yahoo Finance Live. Follow him at @MylesUdland

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