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COVID Impact Statistics

January 13, 202113 January 2021

Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the arts


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This regularly updated webpage offers “reliable and meaningful indicators to keep track of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the arts sector”. Mostly sourced from federal government agencies, the statistics relate to employment, hours worked, economic activity, and government supports to the sector.

Regarding employment, CAPACOA’s analysis of data from November’s Labour Force Survey reports that, “for the third consecutive month, employment fell by more than 10% in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector”. Total employment (including self-employment) was 28% lower in November 2020 than in November 2019 in the broad arts, entertainment, and recreation sector. The arts, entertainment, and recreation sector fared much worse than the Canadian economy as a whole, which saw a 2.5% decrease in employment.

Another indicator of reduced employment activity is the 35% decrease in hours worked in arts, entertainment, and recreation between November 2019 and November 2020. Again, this decrease is much worse than the overall economy (3.5% decline). In fact, the decrease in hours worked is worse in arts, entertainment, and recreation than any other industry. Three other hard-hit sectors are accommodation and food services (-26.0%), business, building and other support services (-11.7%), and transportation and warehousing (-11.3%).

Readers should be cautioned that monthly estimates from the Labour Force Survey can have relatively high margins of error, especially for smaller industry sectors.

Given a decrease in labour force participation rates within “performing arts, spectator sports, and related industries”, the author argues that “live performance organizations are now at very high risk of facing a shortage of skilled workers when in-person events resume”.

The economic indicators on the COVID impact statistics page also show difficult results for the arts, entertainment, and recreation sector. Monthly estimates of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by industry indicate that the GDP of the arts, entertainment, and recreation sector was 46% lower in September 2020 than in September 2019 (despite a 5.2% increase compared to August 2020). The year-to-year decrease is larger than in other major sectors, even accommodation and food services (-27%). During the same timeframe, the overall Canadian economy decreased by 3.9%.

Concerning business conditions, the webpage cites an August survey from Statistics Canada showing that 39% of businesses in the broad arts, entertainment and recreation sector had experienced at least a 50% decrease in revenues compared with 2019. The survey found that about one-third of businesses in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector could only “continue to operate at their current level of revenue and expenditures for less than six months before considering further staffing actions, closure or bankruptcy”. The most severely impacted businesses (5%) “plan to close the organization in the next year”.

Regarding applications to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program, the webpage indicates that arts, entertainment, and recreation organizations (whether for-profit or not-for-profit) received 2.7% of the total value of subsidies between mid-March and late August, higher than this broad sector’s share of all employees (1.8%). The estimated proportion of employees in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector supported via the wage subsidy was 22% in the first CEWS period (which ended in April), 17% in the fifth period (which ended August 1), and 9% in the sixth period (which ended August 29).

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