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Jobs picture remains grim

Mild recovery predicted for L.A. biz

Still waiting for that showbiz recovery?

Don’t hold your breath.

“There’s not a lot of good news out there,” said economist Jack Kyser of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. “Jobs-wise, the industry got off to a bad start in 2003, and it will be difficult to overcome the deficit.”

Hollywood has yet to recover from the “de facto” strike that began during the second half of 2001 after studios stockpiled inventory as a hedge against a possible strike by actors and writers, Kyser said. Other negative factors include the recent failure of the proposed SAG-AFTRA merger, runaway production, lagging 2003 box office, growing concerns over piracy and a backlash against on-location production despite efforts by the Entertainment Industry Development Corp. to blunt those complaints.

“The hostility toward location filming is quite intense, and there is a troubling attitude that the industry should go elsewhere for their location shoots,” Kyser said. “Even though show business is an industry of communication, it does not communicate very well with some of the key people it needs to reach.”

Local analysts see a moderate uptick next year amid a mild recovery from the current slump.

Positive developments include the recovery of the nation’s advertising market, with a 4.3% spending hike expected this year and good prospects for 2004 spending with the Summer Olympics and the presidential election, growth in the DVD market, the possibility that the push for low-cost reality TV may have peaked, and strong recent business at hotels catering to a showbiz clientele.

Report predicts region’s showbiz employment will bottom out at 116,100 this year, representing a job loss of nearly 5,000 from the state’s official figure of 121,000 for 2002, before rebounding to 120,600 next year. That’s far below the industry’s 1999 peak of 146,000, which declined to 138,900 in 2000 and 126,100 in 2001.

The sector’s outlook was rated a “B-minus” as part of the agency’s mid-year update, which forecasts a continued struggle for the state economy due to the negative impact of the attempted recall of Gov. Gray Davis, the state’s budget deficit and the workers’ compensation crisis. California’s overall jobless rate is predicted to decline to 6.2% in 2004 from this year’s 6.7%.

Kyser cautioned that the state figures may not fully reflect smaller employers, independent contractors and freelancers.

The economist also said there may be some optimism derived form the state’s new category of “independent artists, writers and performers,” which is expected to jump from 9,400 last year to 12,200 this year and 15,800 in 2004. He estimated that about 80% of that category are working in showbiz.

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