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COVID's Devastating Effect On The Creative Economy

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We know what the pandemic’s impact on the creative economy looks like: Film and television productions canceled, museums padlocked, art galleries empty, theaters dark.

But now we know part of the human cost, and it’s tens of thousands of local arts workers forced into unemployment.

According to a study commissioned by the Otis College of Art and Design, more than 175,000 California creative workers lost their jobs in 2020 because of the pandemic, with nearly 110,000 of the newly unemployed coming from Los Angeles County.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on the creative economy in California,” the study reports. “The professionals who work across the creative economy’s sectors have been profoundly affected by the public health mandates implemented to help contain the virus.”

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Film and television-related positions accounted for the biggest share of job loss, with some 50,000 local workers sent home. Thousands of people who work in fine arts and fashion also became unemployed.

The study separately counted an array of indirect production-related work -- such as transportation for filming -- which added hundreds of thousands to the tally of losses in the state’s creative economy.

And when people aren’t working, they don’t have money to stimulate the local economy or taxable income. The Otis report found that 2020 job losses just in Los Angeles amounted to an estimated drop of $3.3 billion in state and local government revenue, and $5.7 billion in federal revenue.

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