California Performing Arts Sector Far from Full Recovery, New Economic Impact Study Finds

Los Angeles – Actors’ Equity Association, the Theatre Producers of Southern California (TPSCA) and Arts for LA have released the findings from a new independent study showing that California has lost more than 150,000 live performing arts jobs since the pandemic, and the state is in danger of losing billions of dollars in tax revenue from a depressed live arts sector without further action.

Conducted by CVL Economics, the firm behind the annual Otis College Report on the Creative Economy, the study found that while California’s Performing Arts sector rapidly grew between 2009 and 2019—with employment increasing about twice as fast as the economy overall (43 percent) —the pandemic erased these employment gains in a matter of weeks. If current trends continue, California is projected to lose $4 billion in tax revenue over the next four years. The report was prepared with support from Californians for the Arts.

“These numbers are stunning. This study makes painfully clear that the health of the live arts impacts everyone in California. It’s not just that we’ve lost more than 168,000 jobs compared to the pre-COVID baseline, but that the state is losing billions of dollars in tax revenue as our sector attempts to rebuild,” said Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity Association. “The good news is that we have a solution. Gov. Newsom signed the Equitable Payroll Fund last year, and there is no better time to fund it. This groundbreaking program will not only help California to catch up on arts funding and jobs; it will also strengthen the entire state’s economy.”

“Small Nonprofit Performing Arts Organizations are at an inflection point in California,” said Martha Demson, board president of the Theatre Producers of Southern California. “After decades of underinvestment followed by the devastating losses of the past 3 years, they face irrevocable contraction. The end of the pandemic will not reverse these trends. The data is clear. What will reverse this downward trajectory, and secure the economic benefits of a thriving live arts sector, is investing in creative workers by funding the Performing Arts Equitable Payroll Fund.”

“The Performing Arts play a critical role in both the regional and state economy. California's values and the creative industries have driven the state to become the 4th largest economy in the world, and to protect that standing, the state needs to invest in the Performing Arts now,” said Gustavo Herrera, CEO of Arts for LA

“This study shows the social importance and economic benefit performing arts have on the overall health of California. Arts are a critical generator of tax revenue and driver of creative expression. It’s unacceptable for California to be the top arts generator in the country and rank among the lowest for state investment in arts funding. Almost every sector and business in California got some form of pandemic relief except live, small theaters and that needs to change,” said Senator Anthony Portantino.

“The Performing Arts sector has always had a significant economic impact on communities across the state. We’re at a crossroads now where there are very real challenges facing the sector that may leave permanent scars if we don’t act strategically. The Performing Arts historically have been well positioned to help revitalize downtowns and business districts. That is relevant at a time when economic activity in those areas is lagging as firms navigate the evolving nature of flex, hybrid and remote work,” said Adam J. Fowler, Founding Partner of CVL Economics.

Key findings from the report include:

  • California’s Performing Arts sector lost a decade’s worth of job growth in 2021, with employment dropping to about the same level as in 2010.
  • The Performing Arts sector was disproportionately affected by the pandemic; with 259,400 Performing Arts jobs in 2021, employment in the sector sat 18.5% below pre-pandemic levels compared to 3.3% for the economy overall. 
  • If pre-COVID employment trends had continued, employment in the Performing Arts sector would have grown to 331,400 jobs in 2021, or about 28% more jobs than actual 2021 levels.
  • The Performing Arts sector generates significant economic activity—for every 100 Performing Arts jobs in 2021, an additional 156 jobs were supported in other sectors through downstream impacts. Additionally, each Performing Arts job resulted in $13,287 additional state and local tax revenue.
  • If current trends continue—that is, Performing Arts employment further declines in the coming years—state and local governments could see a combined $4.1 billion loss in tax revenue over a four-year period (2020-2023). 
  • When accounting for direct, indirect and induced impacts, the sector is 168,000 jobs below the pre-COVID baseline resulting in more than $11 billion in lost economic value.

Click here to view the full report.

Chart of Performing Arts Employment and Pre-COVID Trendline

Bar graph of Total Economic Impact of the Performing Arts Sector in California

ACTORS' EQUITY ASSOCIATION, founded in 1913, is the U.S. labor union that represents more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers. Equity endeavors to advance the careers of its members by negotiating wages, improving working conditions and providing a wide range of benefits (health and pension included). Member: AFL-CIO, FIA.  #EquityWorks

May 18, 2023