By Jonnelle Marte

(Reuters) -Millions of people have moved out of New York City during the pandemic, but at the same time, millions of others with lower incomes have taken their place, according to a study released on Tuesday.

All told, a net 70,000 people left the metropolitan region this year, resulting in roughly $34 billion in lost income, according to estimates from Unacast https://www.unacast.com/covid19/covid-19-migration-patterns-and-emerging-areas, a location analytics company.

About 3.57 million people left New York City this year between Jan. 1 and Dec. 7, according to Unacast, which analyzed anonymized cell phone location data. Some 3.5 million people earning lower average incomes moved into the city during that same period, the report showed.

“The exodus isn’t as big as people have been talking about,” said Thomas Walle, chief executive and co-founder of Unacast. “Maybe the greater impact is how the population is changing and how the demographics are changing.”

In Tribeca, a wealthy neighborhood in downtown Manhattan, residents who left this year earned an average income of about $140,000, Walle said. The typical person moving into the neighborhood earned an average $82,000, he said.

The dual hit to population and income across the city can have lasting consequences for New York City as it recovers from the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, Walle said. “The big question is, ‘How does real estate and retail in particular adapt to that?'” he said.

In the longer run, the changing demographics could lead to more affordable brands taking the place of higher-end stores, the researchers noted. At the same time, real estate developers may need to offer more lower-priced housing options, Walle said.

A separate report released earlier this year by StreetEasy found that vacancies rose and rents dropped between February and July in high-end neighborhoods, including the financial district downtown. But rents continued to rise in more affordable neighborhoods.

(Reporting by Jonnelle Marte; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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