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Creative jobs in Los Angeles and Orange counties gain in 2011

December 11, 2012|By Mike Boehm
  • The crew of CBS' 'Vegas' films locally at Santa Clarita Studios.
The crew of CBS' 'Vegas' films locally at Santa Clarita… (Kirk McKoy, Los Angeles…)

Company payrolls in the broadly construed “creative economy” of Los Angeles and Orange counties rose 2.7% during 2011, while the number of jobs grew 1%, according to an annual report issued this month by Otis College of Art and Design.

The report also examines public arts instruction, finding that Los Angeles County schools from kindergarten to 12th grade have been gaining arts faculty and reaching more students, while Orange County has had  declines.

Compiled from government data by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, the Otis Report on the Creative Economy of the Los Angeles Region covers a wide range of job descriptions in 10 creative industries.

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The report covers such obvious jobs as actors, dancers, musicians, architects, curators, gallery workers and designers and technicians for film, television and the performing arts. But it also includes many others, such as factory workers who make clothes and furniture, video game designers and advertising agency employees.

Total creative employment in the two counties reached 341,500 for 2011 as the economy improved, but it remained 12.5% below what now seems like a different era: in 2007, before the Great Recession hit, the region’s creative payrolls numbered 390,300 workers.

Much of the loss has been manufacturing work in the fashion and furniture sectors – which together accounted for $5.3 billion in payroll in 2011 – down slightly from the year before. “It’s doubtful many of these manufacturing jobs will return,” the report said.

The entertainment industry, which the report defines as employees other than performers and writers and their managers and agents, is by far the region’s biggest creative sector, with 122,300 jobs and payrolls totaling $12.1 billion.

Entertainment employment was up 1% over 2010. The average salary for L.A. County entertainment industry employees dropped a bit, from $100,578 to $99,551.

The second biggest category is visual and performing arts, which includes performers and writers and their business entourages, along with the staffs of nonprofit museums and performing arts organizations. It had 28,700 workers in 2011, up 6% from the year before. In Los Angeles County, earnings for these sometimes highly privileged workers averaged $204,772, a 2.9% increase.

Substantial payroll gains also came in advertising and graphic design (10.4%) and architecture and interior design (8.3%). Orange County gallery employees were the worst-paid in the study, averaging $32,352. Their Los Angeles counterparts fared much better, averaging $59,133.

Separate are the 135,083 self-employed people in the two counties’ creative sectors. Their numbers grew 5.7% from a year ago, continuing a trend toward more freelancing in the wake of the recession.

The report’s authors couldn’t get precise figures for what self-employed creative workers earned, or for the overall revenues earned by companies in the creative sector.

They estimated that total revenue for the two counties’ creative sector came to $135.4 billion, up 5.1% over 2010. The estimate, based on partial economic surveys that the U.S. Census Bureau last conducted in 2007, depends on various assumptions instead of hard data.

The report predicts that, after losing 14% of its jobs during the five years from 2006 to 2011, the region’s creative sector employment will rise 4.1% by 2016 -- “somewhat slower … than the overall economy.”

But it cautions that even this modestly hopeful forecast depends on the most pressing global economic unknowns being favorably resolved: “that Europe sorts out its problems and Asia gets back on track,” while “domestic growth gathers momentum and consumer demand strengthens.”

Looking at teaching staffs and student enrollments for K-12 schools during the 2010-11 school year, the report noted that arts class attendance in L.A. County schools reached 324,000, or 7.5% of the total attendance in all classes. That’s the highest in the five years Otis has studied.

The report says that cuts to arts teaching staffs during the recession have been more than restored: the countywide arts teaching staff for 2010-11 was equivalent to 2,057 full-time positions, up 5.3% from the 2006-07 school year.

But it noted that the gains had a lot to do with special federal stimulus funding in 2009 and 2010, and cautioned that whether they stick will depend on hard-pressed state and local government budgets.

In Orange County, arts classes accounted for 7.8% of all course attendance in 2010-11, continuing a drop since 2006-07, when it was 9.1%. Since then, the arts faculty has fallen from the equivalent of 668 full-time positions to 576, a loss of nearly 14%.

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