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Sectoral Unemployment: Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation Hit By Coronavirus

Updated : April 20th, 2020

coronavirus unemployment arts & entertainment

As a sector dominated by gig workers and contractors, unemployment in arts,  entertainment and recreation sector has been drastic, next only to the accommodation and food services sector in scale. Sub-sectors include performing arts, museums, theatres,  amusement parks, gambling arcades, stage shows, fitness centers, spectator sports, etc. The movie industry also comes under this sector.

Many states have declared shutdowns affecting footfall to these venues while they have voluntarily closed down in many places to avoid being a hotspot.  We shall take a brief look at this sector to understand the prospects with coronavirus and what former employees can expect in the near future.

Overview Of Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation

This sector employed about 2,481,500 people in 2019 and 2.46 million people in March 2020 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The current unemployment rate is 8.6% but it has been historically at an average of 4.6% over the past year.

The top occupations in this sector are fitness trainers and instructors, entertainment attendants and other workers as well as janitorial staff. The largest number of employees are amusement and recreation attendants. Employees earn an average hourly wage of $15.87. Many are employed and paid on an hourly basis in this sector.

There is a wide disparity in the wages of on-screen personas vs behind-the-screen staff in the case of the film industry. The working hours’ number a minimum of 24 per week on average. 

The entire market was valued at approximately $336 billion.

COVID-19: Unemployment In Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation

Most businesses in this sector are deemed non-essential and have been closed down by government orders. This sector will thus face a huge decline in revenues in this second quarter of 2020 (provided the coronavirus recedes after that). These businesses have furloughed low-wage employees and imposed pay cuts upon more skilled workers.

In Colorado, the maximum number of layoffs is in Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation. Los Angeles has not released data yet, but as the home of Hollywood and performing arts, many layoffs will be from this sector.

Entertainment industry representatives self-report that at least a 100,000 workers living paycheck to paycheck are out of work. With the slow progress of state labor departments in tackling the massive numbers of UI claims, these workers are in dire straits.

Museums and auction houses across the US are laying off workers. These institutions had requested the government for aid through the CARES Act. Some institutions like the Indianapolis Contemporary are closing down permanently.

How To Deal With The Present

This sector has faced almost a stoppage in job creation. There are a few job openings at gaming companies and media creation houses like Netflix. But the vast majority of work cannot resume till sports centers, stage shows, entertainment centers, etc. are allowed to open again.

In the meanwhile, those who are unemployed should file for UI benefits immediately. One can also look forward to the direct economic payment from the US government. 

There are several voluntary community interventions to help those who find themselves out of work:

  • Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Assistance Fund for theatrical exhibition employees 
  • #PayUpHollywood has raised money through a GoFundMe campaign to support production assistants
  • Writers Guild of America has waived COVID-19 testing costs

Future Prospects

The situation in the Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation may be quite dire. Even when the country starts working normally again, people will not have the money to spend in these places. The unemployment may go on longer than for other sectors. These venues may also remain closed for longer than other places if the coronavirus spread lasts longer than expected. 

Many theatre groups and museums have been struggling financially for years and coronavirus has struck them a death blow. Such ex-employees will need new jobs. Some of the better off cultural centers may be able to survive with just salary freezes. This sector will not create jobs for a long time.

On the bright side entertainment industry workers in California have already started receiving benefits. As the teething troubles get slowly sorted, more people will be able to successfully file UI claims.

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