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Study: 'Creative economy' sees large job loss

Orange County's visual and performing arts workforce slashed nearly a third between 2007 and 2010.

December 22, 2011|From the Los Angeles Times

The smallest Otis job category is art galleries, which suffered. The report identified 258 galleries in the two counties in 2010, down from 343 in 2007. L.A. County lost nearly 20% of its galleries — a rate of attrition eclipsed by Orange County's 41%. Employment was nearly halved over three years, from 1,500 jobs in the two counties to 800. Otis found that the average Los Angeles gallery employee makes $54,767; Orange County peers got $31,139.

Digital media, including software publishing and video game design and production, had robust earnings gains, with payrolls in the two counties up by a third, to $1.33 billion. Average pay rose to $135,612, but the number of workers fell slightly, from 10,100 to 9,800.

With employers cutting back, economists nationwide have said that self-employment may be the wave of the present and future. The Otis report identified 127,750 self-employed creative workers in the two counties in 2009, the most recent year available. That represents a modest increase from 122,214 self-employed people in 2006. The report notes that the total creative workforce can't be calculated by simply adding self-employed workers to those who work for companies, because there's an overlap. An undetermined but substantial number of creative workers divide their time between working for themselves and working for others.

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The report includes broad estimates for the revenue earned by L.A.- and O.C.-based companies in the creative sector, but economist Ritter said they aren't very reliable because they're based on Census Bureau economic surveys that take place only every four years — and which, for privacy reasons, do not always include county-by-county figures for each industry, for fear of revealing the market share of certain locally-dominant and therefore easily identifiable firms. "There can be a large margin of error, but we have to work with the data that is available," she said.

Otis estimated that revenue in the traditional arts and entertainment fields rose to $71 billion in 2010, a 15.6% increase over 2007; the overall creative economy in the two counties rose 24.4% during the three years, to $128.8 billion.

This story was reported by Times Staff Writer Mike Boehm.

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