Two-thirds of New York City’s arts and culture jobs are gone

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New York City museums, sports arenas and entertainment venues are slowing coming back to life. But the sector has contracted dramatically under the pressure of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a report from the state Comptroller’s Office.

Jobs in arts, entertainment and recreation fell by 66% last year from 2019, the largest decline among the city’s economic sectors, erasing a decade of gains in what was one of New York’s most vibrant industries, the report said.

The business district that includes Chelsea and Midtown was the hardest-hit area of the city, accounting for 46% of all jobs in the sector.

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

Before the pandemic, the city drew 67 million tourists each year to take in Broadway shows, Yankees games and Madison Square Garden concerts, generating $70 billion of economic activity. This month Gov. Andrew Cuomo took steps to reopen movie theaters, amusement parks, sports arenas and other venues at limited capacity, but job growth and tourism remains stunted.

As of Feb. 4, 59% of arts and entertainment businesses and 63% of sports and recreation venues in New York City have shut down altogether since the beginning of March, according to software and business-services provider Womply.

Arts, entertainment and recreation in the city accounted for 93,500 private jobs at 6,250 establishments in 2019, the comptroller said. More than half of the workers are men, and 56% are white, compared with 50% of the city workforce who are men and 35% who are white.

Direct relief from the federal government, as well as state and local programs to create safe venues for artists and entertainers, are steps in the right direction, but more help is needed “to keep the lights on,” DiNapoli said.

More than 60% of arts and entertainment companies in the city received loans from the federal Paycheck Protection Program. A new federal relief package provides $15 billion nationally for shuttered live venues.


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