On Friday, Feb. 1, Otis College released its findings for the 2019 Otis Report on the Creative Economy, and, as L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas put it at Friday morning’s official presentation of the report, it “illustrates and quantifies what we’ve known to be instinctively true.” Namely, that the arts are more than just essential to our society — they are essential to our economy as well.

Accounting for more than $207 billion in economic activity countywide and more than $600 billion statewide, the 250-page report is, as one might imagine, rather a dense read. Lots of charts and graphs and dollar signs. But the key points are summarized in Friday’s two-hour presentation, which is watchable in full at the website, which also features interactive data-set tools and regional snapshots. With remarks by Frieze Los Angeles executive director Bettina Korek and executive director of economic research at Beacon Economics Robert Kleinhenz, as well as the backdrop of their on-point PowerPoint, that might be a more enjoyable experience for folks wanting a deeper dive, but not 250 pages deep.

The report takes into account activity across five main realms encompassing architecture, design goods, entertainment (film/TV/music), fashion, and fine and performing arts — with a total of 65 sub-sectors across those categories. There’s also attention given to the nonprofit sector, which crosses all of these. Bruce W. Ferguson, president of Otis College, noted in his introduction, “Race and gender are examined for the first time, and more attention has been placed on providing a richer context.”

First, the big numbers. In California, the creative industries support 2.6 million jobs, $227.8 billion in labor income and $604.9 billion in annual output. Of those 2.6 million total jobs, 1 million represent workers directly employed in the creative industries, and the other 1.6 million are jobs indirectly generated by them. In total, both the direct employment generated by the state’s creative industries and the indirect employment they create through multiplier effects constitute 15.4 percent of California’s total employment.

Credit: Otis College

Credit: Otis College

Locally, that translates to this big number: Los Angeles County accounts for roughly 40 percent of all direct creative industry employment in California. In total, both the direct employment generated by the county’s creative industries and the indirect employment they create through multiplier effects constitute 19.7 percent of Los Angeles County’s total employment.

In 2017, there were 1.3 million people employed across the creative industries in California. Since 2010, the state has added more than 200,000 creative industry jobs, a 26 percent increase. Additionally, across those five creative sectors there are 103,535 self-employed workers.

And there were 3,128 nonprofit organizations in the arts, culture and humanities in Los Angeles County.

Another bit of we-sort-of-knew-that-already data that’s still worth a closer look has to do with the demographics of the nonprofit social and economic space. The report explains it this way, “While the racial and ethnic makeup of the arts nonprofit workforce in L.A. County is more homogeneous than the overall population, female workers at arts and cultural nonprofits in L.A. County represent 60 percent of the workforce compared to 51 percent of the county’s population. The LGBTQ community also has higher representation in the arts and cultural nonprofit sector, with 16 percent of workers identifying as LGBTQ, well above the rate in the overall workforce.”

That’s about all the math that we’re ready for today, but we encourage everyone with a stake in the arts economy — which is really everyone, whether they realize it or not — to go to the site and take it in for themselves.

The 2019 Otis Report on the Creative Economy is available for free download at

LA Weekly