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Strange Realities: US Culture Industry Has Fewer Jobs but More Money

(screen grab via report by U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis)
(screenshot via report by US Bureau of Economic Analysis)

Arts and culture matter much more to the economy than previously known, according to a new report issued by the US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). In 2012, creative industries generated $698.7 billion in added value (total sales minus the cost of production), making up 3.8% of the US national GDP (more than the industries of construction, transportation, travel, tourism, or agriculture). The total US output for that year was $1.1 trillion.

A preliminary report released last year put the number much lower, at $504 billion, or 3.2% of the GDP. That early estimate didn’t include architectural services, online ticket vendors, or “entertainment originals.”

The new report bases its findings on statistics gathered by the BEA’s Art and Cultural Production Satellite Account (ACPSA), funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. It defines art and culture as “creative artistic activity; the goods and services produced by it; the goods and services produced in the support of it; and finally the construction of buildings in which it is taking place.”

Overall, the report shows these sectors have become increasingly profitable since 2007, with value added steadily rising. The biggest increases were in motion pictures (55%), “other information services” (53%), performing arts (52%), computer systems design (47%), advertising (30%), and — pleasantly enough — “independent artists, writers, and performers” (22%).

The design world fared significantly worse. Architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, graphic design, and “all other design services” decreased in value added, as did the supporting sectors of publishing, printed goods manufacturing, and grant-making and grant-giving services, among several others. All in all, that’s no surprise — we’ve heard time and again about publishing’s decline, and architecture has long been suffering a “crisis of confidence,” as Forbes recently wrote.

(screen grab via report by U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis)
(screenshot via report by US Bureau of Economic Analysis)

Cultural industries may be producing more, but they are doing so with fewer hands on deck. In 2007 there were 5.2 million jobs involving “creative artistic activity”; in 2012, there were 4.7 million. The majority were held by employees of the government, publishing, film, broadcasting, advertising, retail industries, and “wholesale and transportation industries.” The government supplied the biggest chunk of jobs (1.1 million), while the industry of camera equipment manufacturing supplied the smallest (1,800). Employment increased only for agents or managers of artists, promoters of performing arts and similar events, and people working in museums, motion pictures, computer systems design, other information services, and unions.

The report marks the first time the government has ever attempted to measure the value of artistic production for the US economy.

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