Long Island’s economy recovered last year from the 2020 recession caused by the coronavirus, new data shows.
Nassau County’s gross domestic product, the sum of all goods and services produced, totaled $89.7 billion in 2021, according to the Federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. This is an increase of 6.3% compared to the previous year.
Suffolk County’s GDP was $90 billion last year, up 5.1% from 2020.
Economic activity had slumped in the spring and summer of 2020 as businesses shut down for months to slow the spread of COVID-19. GDP fell by more than 5% in Nassau and 4% in Suffolk compared to 2019. based on the Bureau’s revised estimates.
Those declines have been reversed over the past year, with the size of each county’s economy marginally exceeding pre-pandemic levels.
“We may have dug our way out of the hole, but we have to remember that if the pandemic hadn’t happened, GDP would likely have been even higher,” said John A. Rizzo, an economist and professor at Stony Brook University.
“It’s not like we’ve completely undone the damage of the pandemic; There are missed opportunities,” he said. Without the pandemic “there would have been more [business] investment and less inflation than what we have now.”
Rizzo on Friday blamed federal COVID relief programs for boosting consumer purchases, leading to product shortages and price hikes this year.
He also attributed Nassau’s strong growth between 2020 and 2021 to an influx of New York City residents and businesses that moved out during the worst days of the pandemic. The county’s GDP grew faster than the state and nation, while Suffolk’s growth lagged behind.
The economy of New York State was $1.5 trillion last year, up 5.7% from 2020. The US economy was $19.4 trillion, up 5, 9%, the bureau reported.
“There was a nice recovery on Long Island,” Rizzo said. “But I think 2022 will be less promising because of inflation and rising interest rates,” both of which are dampening consumer and business spending, “and inherently slowing the economy.”
In terms of the 2021 recovery, two sectors — entertainment/recreation and hotels/restaurants — have grown the most after contracting the most in 2020, according to an analysis of Newsday’s data.
Entertainment/recreation totaled $1.3 billion in Nassau and $547 million in Suffolk, up 54% and 36%, respectively, from 2020.
Hotels/Restaurants totaled $1.95 billion in Nassau and $2.1 billion in Suffolk, or up 33% and 30%, respectively.
The data showing the comeback of performing arts centers, concert halls, art museums and recreation centers didn’t surprise Lauren Wagner, executive director of the Long Island Arts Alliance, which represents more than 100 arts and cultural organizations.
“If you suppress the arts, put a blanket over that activity [with the 2020 shutdown]it has a significant impact — and not just on the arts,” she said, adding that bars, restaurants and retail outlets benefit from audience spending on performance days.
Wagner and others said the entertainment/recreation sector “tested the waters” in early 2021, and by Jan. 1, 2022, programming had returned 75% to 80% of its pre-pandemic levels. “It had a huge impact,” Wagner said.
Mario Saccente, president of the Long Island chapter of the New York State Restaurant Association, attributed the industry’s resurgence to increased takeout orders, widespread use of al fresco dining and the purchase of personal protective equipment for guests and waiters.
“Restaurants have adjusted the way they do business to make the public feel safe to come back out,” he said.