Performing Arts, Food & Drink, Film & Recording Among Hardest Hit Sectors
ALBANY – Creative Industries sectors suffered some of the highest percentage of job loss in New York’s Capital Region by the end of summer, according to new statistics from the New York Department of Labor. In the third quarter, the Performing Arts and Spectator Sports sector saw a 64% decline in jobs over the year – the highest percentage lost out of any other sector in the eight-county region.
“This industry has been devastated,” said Philip Morris, President and CEO of Proctors Collaborative. Proctors laid off 160 full-time and 53 part-time workers, plus has hired no stage hands for a year, the equivalent of 3 million dollars of annual payroll. There are now 32 full-time staff, representing an 80% loss in full-time staff positions at Proctors.
The Food and Drink sector suffered $43 million in lost wages – more wage loss than any other employment sector. Heidi Knoblauch, owner of Plumb Oyster Bar in Troy, had to lay off 100% of her workforce. “We employ people from all walks of life. Restaurants give people an opportunity to enter and re-enter the workforce. The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for us – it has cut off our ability to contribute to our community,” she said. “The effect of losing restaurants will reverberate through our downtowns.”
Other hard-hit Creative sectors include Motion Picture & Sound Recording with 59% of jobs lost – the second highest percentage of jobs lost in the region. Apparel Manufacturing saw 41% of jobs lost, and Museums / Parks / Historic Sites saw 29% of jobs lost.
“The losses in the Creative Industries has been overwhelming,” said Maureen Sager, Executive Director of the Upstate Alliance for the Creative Economy (ACE), a not-for-profit organization organizing and advocating for Creative workers, businesses and venues. “In 2018, the Creative Industries were the fourth largest employment sector in the Capital Region, with over 36,000 workers. Thousands of those jobs have been lost. It’s unthinkable.”
Morris added that the recovery will be extremely difficult. “The supply chain for so much of it, like theater, is months long. That means a recovery will be years. Federal support will help enormously, but more importantly we need artists back working and audiences back in seats.” When asked about the April 2nd limited reopenings, Morris said, “Vaccines and social distance reopenings are just the beginning. We can’t really return until we can welcome full houses again.”
Additionally, over half of those working in the Creative Industries are freelance workers, who, statistically, have experienced more COVID-19-related financial hardship than traditionally-employed workers. “Musicians, actors, dancers, filmmakers, waiters, cooks…so many people have been cut off from their livelihoods,” said Sager. “Their employment options slammed shut in March 2020, and it has yet to be seen if they will eke back in 2021, if at all.”
Film director / producer Michelle Polacinski “had a full-time salary job at Branch VFX, a visual effects production company in Albany, before it shut down permanently in June. “Branch VFX laid off its entire staff of 15,” says its former Executive Producer, Sam Margolius. “The company had hired just over half of its workforce from local talent while attracting the other 50% to move here. These workers – and Branch VFX – were great for the local economy. So much related business activity is lost.” Branch VFX provided services for major motion pictures and series, including The Joker, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Jessica Jones.
“The film industry completely shut down for longer than many other industries, so it’s been especially hard for us,” Polacinski said. “I have since returned to freelance work out of necessity, but I only get about one gig a month if I’m lucky, which is never enough to pay the bills. It’s also harder having to commute to New York City or drive for hours in other directions just to work.” Freelance director Micah Khan estimated that he lost 60% of his paid work in 2020. “I had work lined up for the entire year of 2020,” he said.
Policinski and Khan have started a 518 Film Network group on Facebook, to connect and promote the Capital Region’s independent film community, which has seen the disproportionate job loss associated with both freelance workers and the Film / Sound sectors.
ACE has a survey to help understand services needed and other concerns for the Creative community. The survey can be found at: https://www.upstatecreative.org/ace-creative-economy-survey-income-employment-loss-2020-21/
Maureen Sager, Maureen.firstname.lastname@example.org, 518-248-9348
Heidi Knoblauch, Plumb Oyster Bar, email@example.com
Sam Margolius, firstname.lastname@example.org
Philip Morris, Proctors Collaborative, email@example.com
Michelle Polacinski, firstname.lastname@example.org
This report was prepared with data assistance from the Center for Economic Growth (CEG).