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L.A. County's entertainment sector posts big job losses in 2009

January 21, 2010 |  8:00 am

The rains of the last few days are nothing compared to the economic storm that tore through Hollywood last year.

A new report from the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. out this morning shows that at least 9,000 jobs were lost from the area's signature entertainment sector. The number of workers employed in film, television and commercials in Los Angeles County last year dropped an estimated 6% to 132,442, the lowest number since 2001.

"2009 was a lousy year for entertainment even though you had a record box office,'' said Jack Kyser, founding economist for the LAEDC and one of the study's authors.

The nonprofit corporation cited the effects of recession which further depressed DVD sales and caused studios to layoff workers and cut back on their film slates. On top of that, major advertisers cut back spending on commercials, the bulk of which are produced in L.A. Total broadcast television ad revenues fell 16% in the first three quarters of last year.

Competition from other states offering film tax incentives was a further contributor to the job losses, the report added, noting that on-location shoots recorded their biggest over-the-year drop since tracking began in 2003.

The decline actually understates the extent of job losses as the state's employment figures upon which the study is based do not include large numbers of part-time workers and scores of prop houses and equipment rental shops that service the entertainment industry and that were hard hit by the production slowdown, Kyser added.

Nonetheless, Kyser and his colleagues predict modest job growth in the entertainment sector this year, as the economy improves, fueling an uptick in commercial shoots, and as the studios ramp up production before 2011, when the major labor contracts all expire.

They predict the state's new film tax incentive program will help boost local industry employment. The state already has allocated tax credits for 60 film and TV projects. 

"The outlook for 2010 is a bit brighter,'' Kyser added.

The report further documents the long-term structural challenges facing traditional media, including broadcast networks and the local newspaper industry. Among the grim statistical tidbits: In 1990, 16,911 people worked for newspapers in the county. By 2008, the count fell to just 4,698.  

-- Richard Verrier