Study tells benefits of ‘creative economy’

Times Staff Writers

What do the strapless bra, Bugs Bunny and the Cobb salad have in common?

Along with Barbie, Hula Hoops and the latest version of the Volkswagen Beetle, they were all “born” in Southern California’s creative infrastructure that generates billions of dollars annually for the area economy.

The examples are cited in a report to be released today that documents the area’s “creative economy” -- arts-based industries that include entertainment, auto design, digital media and the performing and visual arts.

All told, the creative economy accounted for about 1 million in direct and indirect jobs, generating $140 billion in sales in Los Angeles and Orange counties, according to the study by the nonprofit Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

The report underscores how the creative sector extends beyond Hollywood’s glamour, making it a key, sometimes underappreciated, driver of the region’s growth.


Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles commissioned the $40,000 study in an effort to highlight the importance of arts education in schools, and to spur government officials to provide business incentives for arts industry employers.

“We are a much richer creative economy than just Hollywood,” said school President Samuel Hoi. “Our leaders need to look at the data to know who we are and where we are going, so we can invest in our future.”

In Los Angeles County, creative industries generated $3.2 billion in state personal income and sales taxes in 2005, according to the study.

Additionally, Los Angeles’ creative economy directly produced 346,000 jobs in 2005, 47% more than New York. Los Angeles had 27,121 creative establishments, 13% more than New York.

Not surprisingly, the entertainment sector accounted for the biggest share -- 129,726, or nearly 40% of the direct jobs. The employment total is followed by fashion, 105,814; furniture and home furnishings, 41,642; and visual and performing arts, 22,292.

Still, the creative sector faces pressure, with employment dropping from a high of 360,415 in 2002 to the 346,003 in 2005. The job losses reflected fashion and furniture jobs moving offshore, and feature film shoots being lured to other areas.

The study’s definition of the arts portion of the creative industry includes museums, stage companies, musical groups, dance troupes and fine arts schools. The $8.2-billion sector represented just 5.8% of creative activity in the region.


Times staff writer Mike Boehm contributed to this report.