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Report: New York City's arts and recreation employment down by 66%
File photo of Thomas DiNapoli, New York state comptroller, at his office in New York, Sept. 23, 2010. Michael Appleton/The New York Times.

by Colin Moynihan

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Employment in New York City’s arts, entertainment and recreation sector plummeted by 66% from December 2019 to December 2020, according to a report released Wednesday by the New York State Comptroller’s office that detailed the economy’s devastation from the coronavirus and the serious obstacles to recovery.

The report from Thomas DiNapoli’s office said that the sector had seen the largest drop of all the parts of the city’s economy. A full comeback, it said, would depend upon significant government assistance.

The sector “is a cornerstone of the city’s ability to attract businesses, residents and visitors alike,” the report said. “Yet the sector relies on audiences who gather to take part in shared experiences, and this way of life has been significantly disrupted by the pandemic.”

Although nearly all business has been affected by the pandemic, its impact on arts, entertainment and recreation entities has been particularly striking.

From 2009-19, employment in the sector — which in this report includes performing arts, spectator sports, gambling, entertainment, recreation, museums, parks and historical sites — grew by 42%, faster than the 30% rate for total private sector employment.

In 2019, according to the report, more than 90,000 people in 6,250 establishments were employed in the arts, entertainment and recreation. Those jobs had an average salary of $79,300 and provided $7.4 billion in total wages. In addition to businesses with employees, the report said, there are a large number of people who were self-employed, including artists and musicians.

In February 2020, just before the pandemic shutdown in New York City, nearly 87,000 people were employed in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector there, the report said. Many major institutions announced closures March 12. A statewide stay-at-home order went into effect March 22. By April, employment in the sector stood at 34,100 jobs.

Budgets at arts and recreation establishments have been “decimated,” the report said, and some organizations and facilities have struggled even as they were able to reopen, saying reduced revenues because of capacity restrictions, as well as diminished ticket sales, have limited income and necessitated budget cuts.

Many performing arts venues are still closed. Most Broadway theaters do not expect to reopen until June at the earliest, the report noted, adding that the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Ballet announced they would not be reopening until September.

“Arts and recreation face an uphill climb to recover from the damage wrought,” the report said, adding: “The challenges facing the arts and entertainment sector require direct and impactful support from policymakers to maintain the city’s extensive cultural offerings.”

© 2021 The New York Times Company

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