News > 2020: The Year One in Four Arts Worker Lost Their Job

2020: The Year One in Four Arts Worker Lost Their Job

A sad person backstage, looking down.
Photo credit: Eric Ward

The COVID pandemic took a particularly heavy toll on the arts sector in 2020. One in four arts, entertainment and recreation workers lost their job in 2020, compared to 2019. That’s 114,400 artists, technicians, marketing staff, arts administrators and other cultural workers who could no longer earn a living out of their profession.

These statistics are from the Labour Force Survey, Statistics Canada’s monthly survey of employees. They provide an account of employment for full-time, part-time and occasional employees, as well as self-employed workers. Through the later half of the year, CAPACOA delivered custom tables and monthly analyses of the Labour Force Survey data (see the December edition). This special edition offers a year-to-year comparison of key employment indicators.

One in four jobs lost in 2020

Bar chart on employment change in 2020 compared to 2019. The arts, entertainment and recreation sector is at the top of the chart, above accommodation and food services.

As the above chart shows, relative to its size, the arts, entertainment and recreation sector lost more jobs than any other sector in 2020. Employment fell from 450,500 in 2019 to 336,100 jobs in 2020 (see Table 1.A). That’s a 25.4% drop. The only other sector that experienced a loss of this magnitude is accommodation and food services, at -22.6%. 

Of all Canadian jobs lost in 2020, 11% were arts, entertainment and recreation jobs. 

The arts, entertainment and recreation sector [NAICS 71] is comprised of three sub-sectors and each one sustained heavy losses (see table 1.B):

  • Performing arts, spectator sports and related industries [711]: – 22.3%
  • Heritage institutions [712]: -14.8%
  • Amusement, gambling and recreation [713]: -28,5%

Information and cultural industries [NAICS 51] stand out as an exception. Employment in this sector grew 7.4% in 2020. However, this increase resulted mostly from the telecommunications [517] sub-sector. Cultural industries experienced more modest growth. Motion picture and sound recording industries [512] actually fell back 2.7%.

It is important to note that “employment” includes full-time, part-time and occasional employees, as well as self-employed workers who worked during the reference week, no matter how many hours. Certain industry groups that include a large proportion of self-employed workers – for example, independent artists, writers and performers [7115] – did not show a significant employment drop in 2020 because many freelance workers were still considered “employed”. For these industries, “actual hours worked” offers a more accurate depiction of the impacts of COVID-related restrictions on the labour force.

Much, much fewer hours worked

“Total actual hours worked” is a very important indicator, because it takes into account both the number of employed workers and the number of hours they worked during the reporting period. It can really tell which sectors were the most affected by the pandemic.

Total actual hours worked declined 36.6% in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector [71] in 2020. Along with accommodation and food services (-32.8%), the arts, entertainment and recreation sector was by far the hardest hit in 2020 (see Table 2.A). 

Within the arts sector, performing arts companies [7111] experienced the largest drop in total actual hours worked in 2020: -60.7% (see Table 2.B)

Self-employed artists hired by performing arts companies are not included in the same industry group. They are rather part of the independent artists, writers and performers [7115] classification. 

While employment among independent artists, writers and performers only fluctuated 1.5% in 2020, their total actual hours worked declined 22.8%. In other words, those independent artists who were still employed worked on average 20.0 hours per week in 2020, compared to 25.5 hours in 2019 (see table 3.B).

What does 2021 hold for the sector?

Recent labour force participation figures suggested that many cultural workers were no longer looking for work in the sector or had found work elsewhere in the economy. Whether they will return to the arts sector when public health restrictions are lifted remains uncertain. In November, the National Arts and Culture Impact Survey asked individual workers about their future in the arts. 65% expected to be working in the arts and culture sector over the following 18 months. That left a large proportion of ambivalent or gone for good cultural workers.

The future of the labour market in the arts and culture sector will depend on a number of factors: how long public health restrictions on cultural activities persist; what level of support governments provide during this second wave and through the recovery phase; and whether or not organizations dependent on admission revenues can keep afloat until they are allowed to welcome their patrons back.

Table 1.A – Employment estimates (x 1,000), by industry, annual, Canada

North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)2019 (x1,000)2020 (x1,000)2020 c 2019 (x1,000)2020 c 2019 (%)
Total, all industries19,055.718,059.5-996.2-5.2%
Agriculture287.6280.8-6.8-2.4%
Forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas332.5306.7-25.8-7.8%
Utilities139.1137.8-1.3-0.9%
Construction1,463.11,375.1-88.0-6.0%
Manufacturing1,733.11,657.6-75.5-4.4%
Wholesale and retail trade2,841.82,706.0-135.8-4.8%
Transportation and warehousing1,037.9950.9-87.0-8.4%
Information and cultural industries323.5347.523.97.4%
Finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing1,208.41,238.329.92.5%
Professional, scientific and technical services1,555.71,554.1-1.6-0.1%
Business, building and other support services776.3702.2-74.1-9.5%
Educational services1,370.41,345.6-24.8-1.8%
Health care and social assistance2,489.72,445.5-44.2-1.8%
Arts, entertainment and recreation450.5336.1-114.4-25.4%
Accommodation and food services1,215.7940.8-274.9-22.6%
Other services (except public administration)817.4733.0-84.4-10.3%
Public administration1,012.81,001.5-11.3-1.1%

Table 1.B – Employment estimates (x 1,000), arts and culture, annual, Canada

North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)2019 (x1,000)2020 (x1,000)2020 c 2019 (x1,000)2020 c 2019 (%)
Total, all industries19055.718059.5-996.2-5.2%
51, 71 Information, culture and recreation728.1683.6-44.5-6.1%
51 Information and cultural industries323.5347.523.97.4%
   511 Publishing industries (except internet)65.868.83.14.7%
   512 Motion picture and sound recording industries76.974.2-2.7-3.5%
   515 Broadcasting (except internet)31.232.81.65.2%
   517 Telecommunications112.0130.718.716.7%
   518 Data processing, hosting, and related services9.98.1-1.8-18.3%
   519 Other information services27.832.85.017.9%
71 Arts, entertainment and recreation450.5336.1-114.4-25.4%
   711 Performing arts, spectator sports and related industries148.0115.0-33.0-22.3%
      7111 Performing arts companies38.122.5-15.6-41.0%
      7112 Spectator sports21.08.8-12.2-58.3%
      7113 Promoters (presenters) of performing arts, sports and similar events11.38.2-3.1-27.7%
      7114 Agents and managers for artists, athletes, entertainers and other public figures4.63.9-0.7-14.2%
      7115 Independent artists, writers and performers72.971.8-1.1-1.5%
   712 Heritage institutions35.029.8-5.2-14.8%
   713 Amusement, gambling and recreation industries267.5191.3-76.2-28.5%

Table 2.A – Total actual hours (main job) estimates (x 1,000), by industry, annual, Canada

North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)2019 (x1,000)2020 (x1,000)2020 c 2019 (x1,000)2020 c 2019 (%)
Total, all industries611230.4557453.4-53,777.0-8.8%
Agriculture11796.711296.2-500.5-4.2%
Forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas13320.111875.5-1,444.6-10.8%
Utilities4921.64983.862.21.3%
Construction52954.746872.5-6,082.2-11.5%
Manufacturing62873.158989.8-3,883.3-6.2%
Wholesale and retail trade87142.980106.3-7,036.6-8.1%
Transportation and warehousing37641.432193.2-5,448.2-14.5%
Information and cultural industries10832.611468.8636.25.9%
Finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing39786.439954.6168.20.4%
Professional, scientific and technical services52558.351465.3-1,093.0-2.1%
Business, building and other support services23408.320100.2-3,308.1-14.1%
Educational services37565.635097.9-2,467.7-6.6%
Health care and social assistance72951.669465.8-3,485.8-4.8%
Arts, entertainment and recreation12056.37646.6-4,409.7-36.6%
Accommodation and food services33256.922519.3-10,737.6-32.3%
Other services (except public administration)25917.421259.0-4,658.4-18.0%
Public administration32246.632158.7-87.9-0.3%

Table 2.A – Total actual hours (main job) estimates (x 1,000), arts and culture industries, annual, Canada

Industry (with NAICS classification)2019 (x1,000)2020 (x1,000)2020 c 2019 (x1,000)2020 c 2019 (%)
Total, all industries611230.4557453.4-53777.0-8.8%
51, 71 Information, culture and recreation21451.418949.6-2501.8-11.7%
51 Information and cultural industries10832.611468.8636.25.9%
   511 Publishing industries (except internet)2203.72323.7120.05.4%
   512 Motion picture and sound recording industries2637.32367.3-270.1-10.2%
   515 Broadcasting (except internet)1053.51084.731.33.0%
   517 Telecommunications3880.84575.8695.017.9%
   518 Data processing, hosting, and related services347.7308.2-39.5-11.4%
   519 Other information services709.6809.199.614.0%
71 Arts, entertainment and recreation12056.37646.6-4409.7-36.6%
   711 Performing arts, spectator sports and related industries4124.52444.4-1680.0-40.7%
      7111 Performing arts companies1093.2430.0-663.3-60.7%
      7112 Spectator sports668.4273.3-395.1-59.1%
      7113 Promoters (presenters) of performing arts, sports and similar events351.1204.2-146.9-41.8%
      7114 Agents and managers for artists, athletes, entertainers and other public figures153.1109.7-43.4-28.4%
      7115 Independent artists, writers and performers1858.71435.3-423.4-22.8%
   712 Heritage institutions1094.7924.7-169.9-15.5%
   713 Amusement, gambling and recreation industries6837.24277.4-2559.8-37.4%

Table 3.A – Average actual hours (all workers, main job) estimates (x 1,000), by industry, Canada

North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)201920202020 c 20192020 c 2019 (%)
Total, all industries32.130.9-1.2-3.7%
Agriculture41.040.2-0.8-2.0%
Forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas40.138.7-1.4-3.5%
Utilities35.436.20.82.3%
Construction36.234.1-2.1-5.8%
Manufacturing36.335.6-0.7-1.9%
Wholesale and retail trade30.729.6-1.1-3.6%
Transportation and warehousing36.333.9-2.4-6.6%
Information and cultural industries33.533.0-0.5-1.6%
Finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing32.932.3-0.6-1.8%
Professional, scientific and technical services33.833.1-0.7-2.1%
Business, building and other support services30.228.6-1.6-5.3%
Educational services27.426.1-1.3-4.7%
Health care and social assistance29.328.4-0.9-3.1%
Arts, entertainment and recreation26.622.3-4.3-16.2%
Accommodation and food services27.423.9-3.5-12.8%
Other services (except public administration)31.729.0-2.7-8.5%
Public administration31.832.10.30.9%

Table 3.B – Average actual hours (all workers, main job) estimates (x 1,000), arts and culture industries, Canada

North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)2019 (x1,000)2020 (x1,000)2020 c 2019 (x1,000)2020 c 2019 (%)
Total, all industries32.130.8-1.3-3.9%
51, 71 Information, culture and recreation59.955.2-4.6-7.7%
51 Information and cultural industries33.533.0-0.5-1.6%
   511 Publishing industries (except internet)33.533.70.20.6%
   512 Motion picture and sound recording industries34.331.4-2.9-8.5%
   515 Broadcasting (except internet)33.933.0-0.9-2.5%
   517 Telecommunications34.735.10.41.2%
   518 Data processing, hosting, and related services35.237.42.26.3%
   519 Other information services25.524.5-1.0-3.8%
71 Arts, entertainment and recreation26.622.3-4.3-16.2%
   711 Performing arts, spectator sports and related industries27.921.1-6.8-24.2%
      7111 Performing arts companies28.718.1-10.7-37.2%
      7112 Spectator sports31.932.00.10.4%
      7113 Promoters (presenters) of performing arts, sports and similar events30.424.6-5.8-19.1%
      7114 Agents and managers for artists, athletes, entertainers and other public figures34.428.7-5.7-16.7%
      7115 Independent artists, writers and performers25.520.0-5.5-21.5%
   712 Heritage institutions31.130.8-0.4-1.2%
   713 Amusement, gambling and recreation industries25.321.7-3.6-14.2%

Notes

  • The above chart and tables combine data from three Statistics Canada sources:
  • Statistics Canada’s public tables from the Labour Force Survey combines series for the Information and cultural industries sector [NAICS 51] and the arts, entertainment and recreation sector [NAICS 71] into an aggregated “information, culture, and recreation” classification. While this aggregation is necessary to deliver monthly tables at small geographic levels, it is not needed for annual tables at the Canada level. Therefore, in the above tables, all aggregated series for “information, culture, and recreation” were replaced with the actual NAICS two-digit sector data from CAPACOA’s custom tables. 
  • CAPACOA is providing these statistics as is, without any data reliability assessment. Data series at the NAICS four-digit level should be interpreted with caution.

More information

More statistics from the Labour Force Survey in The Daily

Employment in arts and culture industries, December 2020

Other statistical indicators of the impact COVID-19

Prepared by: Frédéric Julien, Director of Research and Development.

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