Strike fears to aid job growth

L.A. could see surge of 7,300 jobs

Worries about possible strikes will lead to a surge of 7,300 jobs to 170,300 in the motion picture biz in L.A. County this year, followed by a loss of 2,400 slots in 2008, according to a forecast issued Wednesday by the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp.

Jack Kyser, chief economist at the agency, asserted that a production increase by studios and networks will be by far the biggest factor promoting Hollywood job growth this year.

Leaders of the Writers Guild of America have said they expect to start negotiations in July to replace the current contract, which expires on Halloween. The contracts for the Directors Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild expire in June 2008.

Despite proclamations by guild leaders that they expect to reach a deal without a work stoppage, many execs are still prepping for a strike, Kyser told Daily Variety. “The industry has already started stockpiling,” he added.

Kyser also said jobs will decline next year even if there’s no strike, noting that activity will slow down because studios and networks will be working off the excess inventory created this year. “The scenario is very similar to 2001, when there was a big decline due to stockpiling — even though there was no strike,” he added.

The forecast also listed positive factors for the local showbiz industry as a strong 2007 film slate along with the declining value of the dollar, which has put the brakes on runaway production to Canada. Negative factors include the lack of government incentives, uncertainty over new distribution platforms, studios’ focus on cost containment and growing competition from foreign films in overseas markets.

The breakdown in job slots for this year, based on state figures, is as follows: 137,300 for the motion picture and sound industries, 10,400 for independent artists, writers and performers and 22,600 in broadcasting.

Kyser noted that the state numbers tend to undercount actual employment due to high numbers of freelancers and independent contractors in one- or two-person shops and on a project-by-project basis.

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