Artists are losing jobs fast and furiously


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The country’s dire economic situation is hitting artists hard -- harder than other professionals.

According to new research announced today by the National Endowment for the Arts, working artists are unemployed at a higher rate than other workers, and at a rate that is rising more rapidly than other professions. Presumably as a result, more artists are leaving their profession.


The study, ‘Artists in a Year of Recession: Impact on Jobs in 2008,’ looks at artist employment patterns during two spikes in the current recession -– the fourth quarters of 2007 and 2008.

The main findings:

-- Artists are unemployed at twice the rate of professional workers, a category in which artists are grouped because of their high levels of education. The artist unemployment rate grew to 6% in the fourth quarter of 2008, compared with 3% for all professionals. A total of 129,000 artists were unemployed in the fourth quarter of 2008, an increase of 50,000 (63%) from one year earlier. The unemployment rate for artists is comparable to that for the overall workforce (6.1%). -- Unemployment rates for artists have risen more rapidly than for U.S. workers as a whole. The unemployment rate for artists climbed 2.4 percentage points between the fourth quarters of 2007 and 2008, compared to a one-point increase for professional workers as a whole, and a 1.9 point increase for the overall workforce. -- Artist unemployment rates would be even higher if not for the large number of artists leaving the workforce. The U.S. labor force grew by 800,000 people from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the fourth quarter of 2008. In contrast, the artist workforce shrank by 74,000 workers. Some of this decline may be attributed to artists’ discouragement over job prospects.

Want to know more? The press release is here and the full report is here.

-- Sherry Stern

Also: ‘If I Ran the NEA...’