Report: The arts contributed $28.6B to Pa.’s economy in 2021 | Thursday Morning Coffee

Contributions from the state’s creative sector were up 8.5%, employing more than 165K people full-time

By: - March 23, 2023 7:18 am
The red curtains of the stage are opening for the theater show

(Adobe Stock)

Pennsylvania’s creative sector pumped $28.6 billion into the state’s economy in 2021, employing more than 165,000 people full-time, and providing $14 billion in compensation, newly released data show.

The data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Endowment for the Arts, released by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, show the contributions from the state’s creative sector ticked upward by 8.5 percent in 2021, compared to 2020, the most recent year for which data were available.

Nationally, that growth put the state in seventh place for creative sector employment and eighth place for creative sector GDP in 2021, the council said in a Wednesday statement.

The new numbers “tell the story of how both nonprofit and for-profit creative enterprises shape PA communities for tomorrow — contributing to their vitality as they work to become and remain competitive, attractive, and meaningful places for residents, visitors, and investment,” the state arts council’s executive director, Karl Blischke, said in a statement.

Nationwide, arts and culture account for more than $1 trillion in value added to the U.S. economy, 4.4 percent U.S. GDP, and 4.9 million jobs, the council said in its statement.

(Source: National Endowment for the Arts)
(Source: National Endowment for the Arts)

While some policymakers tend to regard the arts as a luxury item that are often first on the budgetary chopping block during tough times, they’re the “under-appreciated engine” of the U.S. economy, according to a 2019 Forbes analysis.

That year, as the former Trump administration proposed eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts, along with the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, federal data showed that that economic activity from arts and culture increased by 2.9% in 2016, the most recent year for which data were available.

Taken together, that accounted for 4.3% of gross domestic product or more than $800 billion of economic activity, according to Forbes.

If you’re not convinced that’s adequate return on investment, consider as Forbes noted, that the entire budget for the NEA in 2018 was roughly the same as one F-22 fighter jet, which runs about $143 million to $228 million over its lifetime, according to DefenseBridge, an industry website.

(Adobe Stock)

“The arts are an integral part of being human, no matter one’s financial status or political party,” Forbes’ Benjamin Wolff wrote.

“But as we move into the third decade of the 21st century, America would do well to consider the arts as a vital partner in keeping our nation competitive and thriving on the world stage,” Wolff continued. “As we face the challenges of increasing automation, robotics and artificial intelligence, creativity and creative services—what the arts have and can teach—show us a path towards sustainable value.”

And given the fact, based on state data, that some industries within the sector have yet to fully recover to their pre-pandemic, 2019 numbers, there’s a credible argument that this makes supporting this vital economic engine even more of a priority.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.