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2020: The Year One in Four Arts Workers Lost Their Jobs

February 24, 202124 February 2021

Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the arts


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This web article, based on data from Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey, defines “arts workers” as workers in “arts, entertainment, and recreation industries”. The article indicates that one-quarter of these workers lost their jobs in 2020. Readers should be cautioned that some estimates from the Labour Force Survey can have relatively high margins of error, especially for detailed industry breakdowns.

There were 336,100 workers in arts, entertainment, and recreation industries in 2020, a figure that is 25% below the 2019 level (450,500). An important part of this decrease is a non-cultural sub-sector that accounts for more than one-half of the workers in the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry sector: “amusement, gambling, and recreation industries” registered a 28% decrease in its workforce. Excluding this non-cultural sub-sector, the two predominantly cultural sub-sectors (“performing arts, spectator sports, and related industries”, plus “heritage institutions”) saw a 21% decrease, from 183,000 workers in 2019 to 144,800 in 2020. By this measure, about one in five cultural workers lost their jobs in 2020.

Another industry sector with many cultural workers (“information and cultural industries”) saw a 7% increase in its workforce, from 323,500 in 2019 to 347,500 in 2020. Again, this change was largely driven by a non-cultural sub-sector: a 17% increase in telecommunications employment. Three cultural sub-sectors (publishing, motion pictures and sound recording, plus broadcasting) registered a collective 1% increase in employment, from 173,900 in 2019 to 175,800 in 2020.

The article also identifies hours worked as a key indicator. Between 2019 and 2020, there was a 37% decrease in hours worked in arts, entertainment, and recreation industries. Excluding the amusement, gambling, and recreation sub-sector, the performing arts and heritage institutions sub-sectors registered a 35% decrease. In other words, these cultural workers lost more than one in every three hours worked between 2019 and 2020.

The information and cultural industries sector experienced a 6% increase in hours worked between 2019 and 2020. However, in the three cultural sub-sectors (publishing, motion pictures and sound recording, plus broadcasting), there was a collective 2% decrease in hours worked.

The webpage provides statistics for even more detailed industry sub-sectors such as “performing arts companies” and “independent artists, writers, and performers”. However, the webpage cautions that the data for these detailed sub-sectors “should be interpreted with caution”.

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