WPF report highlights arts and entertainment resurgence

A new Wisconsin Policy Forum report shows employment in the state’s arts and entertainment sector is recovering after dropping off early in the pandemic.

The “State of the Arts” report provides an update to a WPF report from August 2020 that described the pandemic as “an existential threat” to arts groups and venues in the state. Since that time, the arts in Wisconsin have “staged a slow but steady comeback,” report authors wrote.

This process has been boosted by about $440 million in pandemic relief funding, the report shows.

In April 2020, employment in some of the major arts and culture industries in the state had declined dramatically, with “much greater” job losses than the economy overall. Employment at museums, historical sites and similar institutions had fallen 30.5 percent; jobs in performing arts, spectator sports and related industries had fallen 57.2 percent; and motion picture and sound recording industries employment had decreased by 69.8 percent.

Over much of 2021, job numbers in those three subsectors saw large improvements, though they remain between 13.1 and 31.7 percent below pre-pandemic levels.

Meanwhile, the report shows employment in arts and culture industries seem to have continued to grow since fall 2021 and “may even have returned to pre-pandemic levels,” based on the performance of a broader industry category: amusement, gambling and recreation. This includes other businesses such as fitness centers, casinos and golf courses.

According to the report, employment in that broader sector was 9.6 percent above 2019 levels in March, based on preliminary data. Total nonfarm employment across all sectors in the state remains 2 percent below 2019 levels, the report shows.

“Nationally, employment in the arts, entertainment, and recreation sector remained down 6.7% in March 2022 relative to the same month in 2019, while total nonfarm employment was up by 0.4%,” report authors wrote. “This suggests that the recovery in the arts, entertainment, and recreation sector has been stronger in Wisconsin than in most states.”

State sales tax revenues from arts and culture industries also suggest related businesses are seeing a strong recovery, though authors note they can’t determine if that is “attributed to a recovery in patronage as opposed to higher ticket and related prices that reflect the rising rate of inflation.”

But at the same time, the number of establishments in the arts and culture subsectors has “held steady and even grown.” Following a decline in the first quarter of 2020, the number of these establishments reached 1,104 in the third quarter of 2021, which is 6.4 percent higher than the same quarter in 2019.

See the full report: https://wispolicyforum.org/research/state-of-the-arts/