L.A. entertainment jobs grow 5.3% in April

L.A. entertainment jobs grow 5.3% in April
Puppeteers and actors film "Learning Town" at the YouTube facilities in Playa del Rey. The state-of-the-art production facility is called the Creator Space. (Christina House / For The Times)

In a surprising plot twist, Hollywood's overall jobs picture continues to improve despite the long-term effects of production flight and studio cost cutting.

Employment in Los Angeles County's motion picture and sound recording sector grew to 126,400 jobs in April, up 6,400 jobs from the same month last year, a 5.3% increase, according to figures from that state Employment Development Department.


The category covers most, but not all, jobs in the local film, TV sector and music industries. Independent contractors, for example, are not counted in the tally.

The figures marked the fourth month this year that job growth in the L.A. County entertainment sector has increased from a year earlier, according to data compiled by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

The growth in entertainment jobs was noteworthy because the category outpaced all private sector (non-farm) job growth in L.A. County, which rose 2.2% last month.

The increase also came in a month when overall national employment in the entertainment sector declined, as it has done in the last year. Employment in the U.S. motion picture and sound recording category was 307,700 in April, down 50,300 jobs or 14% from a year earlier, when employment stood at 358,000 jobs, according to the LAEDC.

The nationwide decline probably reflects the fact that studios have been releasing fewer movies and filming more big-budget productions outside the country, notably in Britain and Canada. The upcoming "Star Wars" movie is filming in London, while Vancouver, Canada, hosted the current hit film "Godzilla."

Southern California also has been squeezed by the effects of runaway production and a spate of layoffs by major studios.

In March, Sony Pictures Entertainment began laying off more than 200 workers at its Culver City headquarters and at international offices.  Disney Interactive, the struggling video game and digital media subsidiary of Walt Disney Co., also announced that it was cutting roughly 700 jobs worldwide.

Nonetheless, some of the job losses have been offset by increases in lower-wage reality-TV shows and new-media jobs as companies such as Yahoo and YouTube invest in entertainment. California's film incentive enacted in 2009 also has lured more lower-budget feature films to L.A. County.

"We're seeing other kinds of motion picture and sound recording taking place locally with Google, YouTube and other online activities that may be fueling the increase in production activity and the number of jobs," said Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist for LAEDC.

Poor weather in the Northeast also may have been a factor in spurring more local production this year, Kleinhenz said.  An improved overall economy could also be factor, he added.

"The overall economy and particularly the consumer sector is more fully on the mend than it was this time last year," Kleinhenz said. "People have more money to spend on all sort of things, including entertainment activities."