By Chau Ngo
Jennifer Dean, 40, has been searching for a job in a film production company for nine months, but has not had any success. Having taken various positions in the film industry over the past 10 years, from a videographer, TV editor to casting director and artistic director, most of which were short-term work, now she wants to seek a stable job. While waiting for the chance to come, she gets by with freelance jobs.
“I’m not happy with the jobs I’ve done in my career,” she said after taking 11 jobs in 15 years. “I love working in the industry, but I realized that finding jobs is very difficult.”
Dean is not the only person finding it tough to get a job in the film industry.
Four years after the slump during the financial crisis, employment in the film and music industries has either stayed unchanged or decreased on a monthly basis, according to the Labor Department’s data. These have been the worst performers in job creation as a result of being less sensitive to the economic recovery and the fact that technology has been costing human jobs.
The two industries lost a combined 7,100 jobs in the first three months this year, after a decline of 27,600 jobs last year, the Labor Department said. Jobs in music and film industries have been typically volatile because of the employees’ dependence on projects, but the employment in these industries has proved to be even less promising in the past few years.
Thomas Wagner, with a background as an Emmy Award nominee for a music composer in 2005, has also been struggling to get a job in the music industry.
He used to run his own business for 30 years until everything went sour during the recession. Wagner has been applying for a job in the past seven months, but has not succeeded.
“People now have less money to spend on projects,” Wagner said. “They are looking for ways to reduce the cost, so they reduce hiring and cut jobs.”
Employees in these industries blame technology for the vanishing jobs. Their personal experience offers an explanation for the slow recovery of their industries labor market.
When Dean started her career in film making more than 10 years ago, film makers had fewer platforms for distribution. Now they have many ways, conventional and unconventional, to bring their products to the audience, which makes it much easier and cheaper to do, she said.
“It helped the industry a lot, but it also hindered the industry in terms of jobs,” she said. “People are much less willing to pay for certain skills because it’s ubiquitous. Why should I pay a bunch of money to somebody to edit my project while I can do it on my own on my computer?”
Wagner, 63, agrees. Over the years, he has seen the work be done with less labor. “Technology costs jobs in my business,” he said.
There has been employment volatility between sectors, with several being more sensitive to economic fluctuations, such as retail trade, construction, but not information – which music and film industries are part of, said Sean Incremona, senior economist at 4Cast Inc. in New York.
“Information is the sector that does not respond strongly to the recovery,” he said.
Professional and business services, including bookkeeping and accounting, have been among the sectors to strongly benefit from the economic recovery. The number of jobs created is not always impressive given its position as one of the largest sectors, but the trend has been upward in the recovery. It added 79,000 jobs in February, after an average increase of 55,000 jobs per month last year, according to the Labor Department data.
Film and music industries, in contrast, have not benefited from the economic recovery, said Ted Wieseman, economist at Morgan Stanley.
“They were strongly hit by the recession, but not that cyclical,” he said.
Employment in film and music industries may continue to be hard to find, as there is little demand for labor, said Ted Nelson, music producer at Sound Concept Recording, a studio in Nashvile, Tennessee. His studio has been running in a modest manner while he has seen other studios struggling.
“It’s getting harder and harder to get a job in music recording and producing,” he said. “Every guy who is running a studio is battling to get projects, they don’t need any more people.”