H’w’d job market may follow nat’l skid

End of pilot season, no more studio cash

Hollywood’s collective sigh of relief at a strike averted may have been a tad premature.

Left coast workers may have avoided the picket line only to queue up at the unemployment office this summer as showbiz finally faces the dour economics squeezing other sectors of American industry.

In April, the national unemployment rate shot up to 4.5%, a 2-1/2 year high. Yet in the entertainment biz, the arrows were pointing in the opposite direction.

According to the Dept. of Labor, jobs in motion pictures rose steadily from 632,000 in January to 635,500 in February to 640,700 in March to a provisional 646,200 in April.

But the numbers will soon plunge south. That’s business as usual for TV production, which invariably dips when pilot season ends each spring. But the current production glut has also dried up studio cash. That’s sure to leave thousands of industryites twiddling their thumbs for the rest of the fiscal year.

But that’s no tragedy for actor and sometime writer Matt Ross. “The writer part of me is celebrating the fact that I don’t have to audition,” he says.

Adds actor-director Bob Balaban, “I’m looking forward to a little breathing room.”

But those with no cash under the mattress may wish there had been a work stoppage. That way, they could say they’re striking with their union brethren, not just out of work.

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