Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation: A small part of Alaska's economy but big in everyday life
By NEAL FRIED
November 01, 2014
This tiny industry, which generated about 4,800 jobs in 2013, grew by nearly 23 per- cent over the past decade across all its categories - and its categories are broad. (See exhibits 1 through 3.)
Most jobs in gambling and ‘amusements’
The largest subcategory by far is “amusement, gambling, and recreation,” which
Gambling is the second-largest piece of the amusements, gambling, and recreation category and includes bingo and pull tab parlors as well as the well- known Nenana Ice Classic, for which patrons pay to guess the date and time the ice will break up on the Nenana River each spring.
By law, revenue from these activities, which are licensed by the Alaska Department of Revenue, goes to charity or other public purposes such as fire departments, school activities, and community budgets.
These gaming operations are spread throughout the state, from the smallest villages to major operations in urban areas, and they generate impressive receipts. In 2010, the most current year available, more than 1,000 game permitiees grossed more than $361 million.
Pull tab parlors alone accounted for $281 million, and bingo came in a distant second at $68 million.
Performing arts mainly in sports
The performing arts are a small part of the industry, with 99 establishments in the state that are mainly nonprofits with five or fewer employees. Most are tied to sporting events such as spectator sports, participation sports, and sports promotion, from referee organizations and private club sports to professional sports such as hockey, baseball and, yes, dog mushing.
The balance is mostly performance art such as community theater groups but also concert, dance, and other performers.
Museums bring in stream of visitors
The smallest industry grouping is museums, zoos, and parks. Alaska isn’t known for zoos, but museums are found throughout the state, from one-person operations to those with large, full-time staffs.
According to Museums Alaska, Alaska’s 50-plus museums had more than 300,000 visitors in 2013 — and the museum job count is even bigger than shown here, as some museums are government-run and don’t show up in this article’s employment data.
Growing fast, but earnings low
This industry’s 23 percent growth over the decade far eclipses Alaska’s 13 percent overall job growth. Population increases and expansion of the state’s visitor sector are two factors that bumped up this growth. These jobs are also well-represented across the state. (See Exhibit 4.)
Wages tend to be low, however. (See Exhibit 5.) Aver- age annual earnings in 2013 were $19,920, less than half the state average of $51,036 for all industries. The wages per job are below average, and many of these jobs are also part-time, which brings down the average.
Many jobs hard to capture
This industry’s reach is broader than these numbers suggest. Many of these workers might identify as art ists or entertainers but earn their wages in another industry. These data don’t capture the self-employed. Regular employment data are based on employers’ payroll reports and few visual artists, for example, are on someone’s payroll.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 16 percent of those working in the industry were self-employed from 2010 to 2012, compared to 10 percent of the entire civilian workforce. That’s the largest self-employment percentage among all Alaska industries.
Some information on these freelancers is available through the Census Bureau’s “nonemployer statistics,” which look at businesses with no employees.
These statistics are based on tax records that show at least $1,000 in yearly receipts. In 2012, they included 3,140 firms that generated $62 million.
Finally, volunteers aren’t included in employment data, but they play a key role in keeping many of these institutions operating. For example, the Baranov Museum in Kodiak has two full-time and five part-time staffers but about 50 volunteers.
Neal Fried is an economist with the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development's Research & Analysis Section.
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