Thursday, March 24, 2022

Graffiti style mural painted on a brick wall showing a nurse in traditional white uniform and a white mask with a heartbeat graph behind them and COVID-19 above them.

On March 15, 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) released their annual Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account (ACPSA) report—an expansive set of measures of arts and culture in the U.S. economy, including its share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This report, detailing the economic impact of the creative economy in 2020, offers the first snapshot of the constricting impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic had on the sector.

For the first time since the post-Great Recession period, the year-over-year value add of arts and culture production declined in 2020, from $930 billion in 2019 to an estimated $877 billion in 2020. Even with that decline, however, the economic impact of the creative sector is significant: the sector represented 4.2% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2020 and supported 4.6 million wage and salary workers. Its economic contribution, even in this pandemic-impacted year, was larger than transportation and warehousing, mining, or agriculture.

Chart showing year over year data of Arts & Culture Production in the U.S. Economy. The two most recent years, 2019 and 2020, show a decline from $930 billion to $877 billion.

Effects of COVID-19 on the Arts & Culture Sector’s Economic Impact

The impacts of COVID-19 were myriad and significant, and will likely resonate into the 2021 data when it is released in the future:

  • The arts and culture sector’s 4.6 million workers reflects a 12% decrease in employed individuals from 2019, when the sector supported 5.2 million workers. This number does not count self-employed artists and other independent cultural workers.
  • These data show a contraction of 5.8% for the arts and culture sector, which is nearly double the contraction experienced by the overall U.S. economy in the same period.
  • The economic impact of certain parts of the sector declined disproportionately between 2019 and 2020, notably the economic impact of: construction of new cultural facilities (-24%), museums (-22%), independent creatives (-21%), and motion picture and film (-18%).
  • These shortfalls were in part mitigated by growth in other parts of the sector: the value added by web publishing and streaming increased by 14%, the economic impact from government arts and culture contributions stayed essentially flat, and both TV and radio broadcasting and publishing declined only slightly.
State Arts & Cultural Production Satellite Account Data Available

The arts continue to be an important share of state economies. The NEA has created an interactive map through which visitors can determine state-level estimates of the value added to Gross State Products in each state, and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies has created an interactive dashboard for each state. 
Note: As is usual, the BEA made small revisions to the 2019 national data set and numbers you may have grown accustomed to in the past will look slightly different the next time you see them. For example, the 2019 national figure is now $930 billion and no longer $919.7 billion.

Links to Resources

National Arts Data Profile

State Arts Data Profile

National Assembly of State Arts Agencies’ State Dashboards

Bureau of Economic Analysis—Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account

Pictured: Central panel of a “STAY HOME” mural by Milton Coronado, located at Project Logan at Fullerton and Milwaukee in the Logan Square area of Chicago, Illinois. Photo by James aka @urbanmuralhunter from Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.