National Endowment for the Arts Announces Research on Artist Unemployment Rates
March 4, 2009
Washington, D.C. — Unemployment rates are up among working artists and the artist workforce has contracted, according to new research from the National Endowment for the Arts. Artists in a Year of Recession: Impact on Jobs in 2008 examines how the economic slowdown has affected the nation’s working artists. The study looks at artist employment patterns during two spikes in the current recession – the fourth quarters of 2007 and 2008. This downturn reflects larger economic declines: a Commerce Department report last week noted a 6.2 percent decrease in the gross domestic product in the last quarter of 2008.
Among the findings:
As an example of how arts jobs intersect with the larger economy, consider the construction industry. Industry-wide declines, which began in 2006, have contributed to the shrinking job market for architects. While this group usually has the lowest unemployment rates among all artist occupations and all professionals, architect unemployment rates doubled, from 1.8 percent in fourth quarter 2007, to 3.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008. Unemployment in the designer category also doubled, from 2.3 percent to 4.7 percent. This broad category includes interior, commercial, and industrial designers, whose work is closely associated with the construction industry. Eighty-three thousand designers left the artist labor market during that time period.
"We conducted the research to quantify what we hear in the field and read in the news every day, that art workers -- alongside all workers -- are suffering," said NEA Director of Research & Analysis Sunil Iyengar. "Unfortunately, the data reveal that artist unemployment is increasing at more rapid rates than for the total workforce, and could have more of an effect over time."
The contraction of the arts workforce has implications for the overall economy. A May 2008 NEA study revealed there are two million full-time artists representing 1.4 percent of the U.S. labor force, only slightly smaller than the number of active-duty and reserve personnel in the military (2.2 million). More recently, a National Governors Association report recognized that the arts directly benefit states and communities through job creation, tax revenues, attracting investments, invigorating local economies, and enhancing quality of life. There are 100,000 nonprofit arts organizations that support 5.7 million jobs and return nearly $30 billion in government revenue every year, according to a study by Americans for the Arts.
The NEA Office of Research & Analysis produced Artists in a Year of Recession: Impact on Jobs in 2008 using published and unpublished data from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. The research note measures unemployment rates among workers who self-reported an artist job as occupying their greatest number of working hours per week, whether the employment was full-time or part-time.
The NEA issues periodic research reports, brochures, and notes on significant topics affecting arts policy, often in partnership with other federal agencies such as the Department of Labor and the U.S. Census Bureau. Other recent NEA reports on the arts economy include Artists in the Workforce, on artist employment and demographic trends, and All America’s a Stage, which examines the fiscal health of nonprofit theaters. Artists in a Year of Recession and other NEA research are available in print and electronic form in the Research section of the NEA Web site. Artists in a Year of Recession can be downloaded as a PDF document.
About the National Endowment for the Arts
The NEA is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts – both new and established – bringing the arts to all Americans, and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Arts Endowment is the largest annual national funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases. For more information, please visit www.arts.gov.
National Endowment for the Arts · an independent federal agency