May 27, 2022

New Report/Data: “Artists and Other Cultural Workers: A Statistical Portrait”

The following report was published on April 24, 2019.


Artists and Other Cultural Workers: A Statistical Portrait


National Endowment for the Humanities

From the Report

This omnibus report, Artists and Other Cultural Workers: A Statistical Portrait, extends the range of statistics that the National Endowment for the Arts historically has tracked as part of its decades-long research function. Although the agency periodically reports facts and figures about 11 distinct artist occupations (based on U.S. Census data), this report brings in other job characteristics, other data sources, and even other kinds of cultural workers.

Among key findings are:

1. Regardless of occupation, over 5 million workers are employed in
arts and cultural industries. They are all wage-and-salary workers.

  • There are nearly 2.5 million artists in the U.S. labor force (either
    self-employed or wage-and-salary workers).
  • Approximately 333,000 (self-employed or wage-and-salary) workers hold secondary jobs as artists.
  • Another 1.2 million (self-employed or wage-and-salary) workers hold a primary job in a cultural occupation other than artist.

2. Artists are 3.6 times as likely as other workers to be self-employed.

  •  In 2012-2016, roughly 34 percent of all artists were self-employed. This compares with 9 percent of all workers.
  • Most self-employed artists seem to like their work arrangement: 79 percent say they would not prefer to work for someone else, while 58 percent cite flexible schedules and independence as the main reasons they are self-employed.

3. Artists are becoming a larger share of the U.S. labor force.

  • In 2006, artists composed 1.42 percent of the labor force; by 2017, they were 1.55 percent, representing a 6.1 percent increase.
  •  In 2017, the artist unemployment rate hit an 11-year low.
  • As a group, artists currently experience unemployment rates similar to those of all U.S. workers.

4. Faster-than-average growth in employment is projected for set and exhibit designers, actors, producers and directors, and film and video editors.

  • Between 2016 and 2026, annual job openings will have averaged 7,400 for actors and 14,100 for producers and directors.
  • Employment growth in these occupations stems from strong demand for new movies and television shows.
  • Employment of film/video editors is projected to grow at a 17
    percent clip. A contributing factor is the number of shows
    increasingly produced by Internet-only sources and streaming services.

Direct to Full Text Report 
56 pages; PDF.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.