Research > COVID Impact Statistics

COVID Impact Statistics

An empty theatre lit up with red lights
Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts lit up their venue in red as part of the #LightUpLive campaign

Most recent indicators from Statistics Canada

Here are a few reliable and meaningful indicators to keep track of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the arts sector.

Employment, February and March 2021

  • Employment in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector [NAICS 71] grew for the second consecutive month in March. Employment totalled 287,100 (10.7% more than in February). This increase was driven by Spectator Sports [NAICS 7112], by Independent artists, writers and performers [NAICS 7115] and by Amusement, gambling and recreation industries [NAICS 712]. All jobs lost among Independent artists, writers and performers in February were recovered in March.
  • Total actual hours worked in March cannot be compared to February, because the reporting period in February included Family Day, which is a statutory holiday in many provinces. On average, arts, entertainment and recreation workers worked 24.1 hours per week in March. This is comparable to January (24.2 hours).
  • As of March 2021, pre-COVID comparison with the same month in the previous year is no longer possible. Back in February 2021, the arts, entertainment and recreation was still by far the furthest away from recovery. Employment in the sector was 36,8% lower than in February 2020. With cumulative losses of 151,300 jobs in February 2021, the arts, entertainment and recreation sector accounted for 25,3% of the employment decline in the whole economy (-598,300) since the beginning of the pandemic.
This image is available for reuse under CC-BY 4.0 license.

Source: Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, by selected industries, Canada, unadjusted for seasonality, March 2021 (unpublished); Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, by selected industries, Canada, unadjusted for seasonality, February 2021. Calculations and chart by CAPACOA.

Employment, 2020 compared to 2019

  • Employment in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector [NAICS 71] fell from 450,500 in 2019 to 336,100 jobs in 2020. That’s a 25.4% drop.
  • Total actual hours worked in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector declined 36.6% in 2020, compared to 2019. Within the sector, performing arts companies [7111] experienced the largest drop in total actual hours worked in 2020: -60.7%.
  • The arts, entertainment and recreation sector was the hardest hit in 2020, on both indicators.

Source: Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, by selected industries, Canada, annual. Calculations by CAPACOA.

Gross Domestic Product

  • The GDP for the arts, entertainment and recreation sector [NAICS 71] decreased slightly by 0.8% in December 2020. This was the sector’s second consecutive decrease. 
  • The GDP of the arts, entertainment and recreation sector in December 2020 was 50.7% away from its February level. In comparison, the accommodation and food services [NAICS 72] sector was 39.4% lower than in February.
  • Within the arts sector, the “performing arts, spectator sports and related industries, and heritage institutions” cluster [NAICS 711, 712] was the furthest away from recovery in December 2020. At $2.9 billion, it was 61.7% lower than in February 2020. No other industry group experienced a larger decrease, besides air transportation [NAICS 481] (-87,4%). 
Bar chart highlighting a $4.7 billion GDP drop (-62%) in the performing arts, spectator sports and related industries, and heritage institutions between February and December 2020.
This image is available for reuse under CC-BY 4.0 license.

Source: Statistics Canada, Table 36-10-0434-01 Gross domestic product (GDP) at basic prices, by industry, monthly (x 1,000,000). Calculations by CAPACOA.

Business conditions

  • 36.0% businesses in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector [NAICS 71] reported that their revenues from 2020 were down 50% or more compared to 2019. This is a greater percentage than any other industries, including accommodation and food services (32.7%), and nearly three times more than the national average (12.9%).
  • Nearly one-quarter of businesses in accommodation and food services [NAICS 72] (24.9%) and arts, entertainment and recreation [NAICS 71] (23.3%) reported they could continue to operate at their current level of revenue and expenditures for less than 12 months before having to consider closure or bankruptcy. This is an improvement since August – when 3 in 10 (29.4%) arts, entertainment and recreation expressed concerns about their continuity over the following 6 months – but it is still more than two times higher than the all-industries average (10.3%).
  • 3.2% of arts, entertainment and recreation organizations plan to close the organization in the next year (compared to 4.7% in August).
  • In light of continuous reopenings and shutdowns because of fluctuations in the number of COVID-19 cases during different waves, government regulations posed an expected obstacle for around two-fifths of businesses in arts, entertainment and recreation (43.6%) and accommodation and food services (38.1%). Obstacles are analyzed in depth in this article.

Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Survey on Business Conditions, first quarter 2021.

Other indicators from the federal government

Wage Subsidy Claims

  • The CEWS uptake has been significant among Arts, entertainment and recreation [NAICS 71] organizations with employees with an average 2.7% of the total CEWS distribution during the first six periods (from March 15th to August 29th). This is significantly higher than the relative weight of arts, entertainment and recreation employees compared to all industries (1.8%, based on Survey of Employment, Payroll and Hours, Employment by industry, annual).
  • The total number of arts, entertainment and recreation employees [NAICS 71] supported by CEWS fluctuated between 63,000 and 84,600 during the first five periods. Compared to the total labour force of the sector, this represented a progressively declining ratio from 21.6% in the first period to 16.7% in the fifth period. For the sixth period (August 2 to August 29), the ratio of the labour force covered by CEWS fell to 8.7%.

Source: Canada Revenue Agency, Approved Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) claims by period and industry sector, Canada. Custom tables, calculations and analysis by CAPACOA.

Soundbites from industry sources

  • Arts and culture workers anticipate an 18-month recovery period and as many as one in three (35%) are uncertain about their future in the arts.
  • Arts and culture organizations are much more optimistic about the ability of their own organization to recover from the impacts of COVID-19 (67%) than they are about the ability of the industry as a whole to recover (42%).
  • Over three times as many individuals AND organizations report very high or high levels of stress and anxiety today (76% and 79%, respectively) as compared to before COVID-19 (26% and 25%).

Source: Prairie Research Associates, National Arts and Culture Impact Survey, January 2020. Survey of individuals and organizations conducted in November 2020; n=2,001.

  • Only 6% of “arts, recreation & information” businesses reported normal or better revenues than usual in November.
  • “Arts, recreation & information” businesses are most likely to agree that there are sector-specific challenges that are not currently being addressed by their provincial government. 50% strongly agree and 20% somewhat agree.
  • Owners of “arts, recreation & information” businesses are the most likely to report psychological health issues: 10 percentage points above the 48% average.

Source: Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, COVID-19: State of Small Business, November 2020. Survey of CFIB members started November 20, 2020; n=4,127.

  • 2/3 (65%) of festivals and events will not return next year or are uncertain whether they can return if there is not a bailout program created to wipeout deficits created by the impacts of COVID-19.
  • 2/3 of festivals and events have had to lay off staff (48%) or have reduced employee hours (28%). There was an average 50% reduction in the workforce of those organizations who have had to lay off staff.

Source: Festivals and Major Events Canada, COVID-19: Survey of Festivals and events in Canada, August 2020.

About this web page

This webpage is built with the goal of making it easier for everyone in the performing arts sector to access the latest and most relevant economic indicators during the time of COVID-19. 

Most statistics provided on this page are the result of custom calculations and, as such, can be subject to occasional errors. Users are encouraged to refer to the sources, to read methodological notes, and to run their own calculations.

More statistics can be accessed on Hill Strategies’ Arts Research Monitor, via the Culture Satellite Account or on CAPACOA’s page of performing arts statistics.

Questions or comments about these statistics can be addressed to Frédéric Julien, Director of Research and Development at CAPACOA.
This webpage is maintained and updated collaboratively by CAPACOA, Mass Culture, Fédération culturelle canadienne-française, the Cultural Human Resources Council and the BC Alliance for Arts + Culture in support of the important work done by Statistics Canada, the Cultural Statistics Strategy Consortium, and partner arts service organizations.

Last updated: April 12, 2021

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