It will take awhile to sort out, but right now the best bet is that the 60-hour transit strike cost New Yorkers about $1 billion. New York City Comptroller William Thompson had estimated that the first day of the strike was the costliest—at $400 million—because “because many people will just take the day off and hope it is no more than a one-day strike.” Wednesday and Thursday were projected to hit at about $300 million each. “We expect that many people will have figured out how to get to work, and businesses will have had time to implement telecommuting options and make other adjustments,” Thompson wrote. “But, given the proximity to the holidays, many people will decide to take off and many people will not travel into the city for holiday purposes.”
It’s important to recognize that the strike wasn’t an economic loss for everyone. Cops making overtime, luncheonettes in neighborhoods where people stayed home, cabbies who didn’t get killed on gas mileage, and others probably saw a net gain this week. And in the beauty of the multiplier, they will then pump their extra money back into the economy. Thompson’s estimates take these “offsets” into account.
A billion bucks is no small potatoes. But that $1 billion must be seen in context. Back in 2002, the comptroller estimated that September 11 cost the city $95 billion in economic activity (alternative estimates have put the figure as low as $25 billion). The 2003 blackout lasted just over a day, and cost about a billion. New York City’s gross city product is about equal to $1.2 billion a day.