Arts sector shrank twice as fast as US economy as Covid surged, reports NEA

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A report released on March 15 by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) found that the arts industry in the United States has shrunk at almost twice the rate of the country’s economy between 2019 and 2020, as the Covid-19 crisis closed theatres, clubs, cinemas and museums across the country. Additionally, while the arts sector has regained strength as the pandemic evolves, it has yet to return to 2019 levels. However, the NEA highlighted what it describes as the sector’s “outsized role in the US economy” as a positive indicator of future value.

By analyzing economic data from thirty-five different segments of the cultural field and taking into account inflation, the NEA found that artistic and cultural production fell by 6.4% between 2019 and 2020, while the economy America as a whole fell 3.4%. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the performing arts were the hardest hit, joining oil drilling and air transport at the top of the list; the film industry was lining up just behind, which saw 136,000 jobs lost as productions closed. Overall, unemployment rates in the arts sector have skyrocketed from 3.7% in 2019 to 10.3% in 2020; job losses, not counting those suffered by self-employed artistic workers, totaled 604,000 over the same period.

With vaccines widely available, Omicron receding in the country’s rear-view mirror, and future Covid variants expected to be less lethal, the arts industry is set to continue to gain momentum this year. Although far from the $12.7 billion raised in the third quarter of 2019, the performing arts segment saw its revenues double in the comparable period of 2021 compared to the previous year, from a pitiful 834 million to $1.7 billion. Citing the expansion, during the pandemic, of digital media platforms such as live streaming services and online viewing rooms which accounted for a total of 12,000 jobs added, and also highlighting the added value of 876.7 billion dollars by the arts sector to national market GDP in 2020, down from $919.7 billion in 2019,

NEA President Rosaria Jackson offered an optimistic outlook.

“While arts and culture industries and workers nationwide have suffered heavy losses, the sector continues to play an outsized role in the U.S. economy, as new data demonstrates,” it said. she declared. “NEA is committed to participating as a key partner in reviving this sector, recognizing not only its economic value, but also the ability of the arts to transform the lives of individuals and communities in other ways, by contributing to health and well-being, and overall resilience.

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