Two-thirds of New York City’s arts and culture jobs have disappeared

1 March 2021, 15:46

New York Metropolitan Opera’s musicians haven’t been paid since April
New York Metropolitan Opera’s musicians haven’t been paid since April. Picture: Getty

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has devastated New York City’s arts and culture scene, slashing jobs in the sector by 66 percent.

New York City is celebrated worldwide as a thriving culture capital, boasting the Metropolitan Opera, 41 Broadway theatres, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and countless other world-leading institutions.

But as of December 2020, arts, entertainment and recreation employment declined by 66 percent from one year earlier.

The dramatic drop-off, published in a report from the state Comptroller’s Office, is the largest decline among the City’s economic sectors.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has had a profound and negative impact on the industry,” Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a statement. “It has forced facilities to close, thrust thousands into unemployment and pushed businesses to the brink of collapse.”

In 2019, New York City’s arts sector employed nearly 100,000 people in 6,250 organisations and generated $7.4 billion in total wages.

The impact of the pandemic has turned not just viable, but flourishing, professions on their head. In 2019, 128,400 residents (including nearly 31,000 self-employed residents) drew their primary source of earnings from the arts, entertainment and recreation sector.

Read more: Met Opera’s musicians haven’t been paid since April. Now, a third have left New York. >

And from 2009 to 2019, employment in the sector grew by 42 percent, faster than the 30 percent rate for total private sector employment. Total wages in the sector also grew faster than all establishments and wages citywide.

According to the report, the business district that includes Chelsea and midtown Manhattan was the beating heart of the city’s culture scene, and has been hit hardest by the pandemic. Home to 1,921 venues, the area accounted for 46 percent of all jobs in the sector.

Read more: Riccardo Muti in ‘disbelief’ that Met Opera Orchestra could disappear >

Government relief has been provided, through the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for self-employed workers. A loan program also supported 62 percent of firms and 70 percent of employment in the arts sector.

Now, a new relief package will also provide $15 billion nationally for shuttered live venues and $284 billion in funds for more loans through March.

However, DiNapoli said in a video stream on Facebook: “Relief from the federal government and state and local programs are steps in the right direction, but more help is needed.