One of the most substantial ways in which arts and culture affect their communities is through the labor market. A healthy arts economy has many employees working in many businesses and earning high levels of payroll.

It is worth noting that employees in arts industries are not necessarily the same as workers in arts occupations. How can this be? It reflects the fact that some arts workers work in industries that do not, mainly, produce arts goods or services. A designer working in a department store would be one example. Similarly, there are many non-arts workers in cultural organizations – e.g., the accountant in a theatre company. In the National Arts Index, the number of workers in arts occupations is shown at the national level. This cannot be replicated for counties, because the data are only available for arts occupations at a multi-county level, and are not broken down for individual counties.

The North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) is a system of 1,800 codes for classifying businesses into different industries. The Local and National Arts Index reports use a set of 44 NAICS codes that we selected as the best representation of arts and culture from those 1,800 codes. The Census Bureau provides county-level tallies of establishments, employment, and payroll in the County Business Patterns web site.

This particular indicator measures the share of all employees in a county who work in arts and culture industries, using 2011 County Business Patterns data from the Census Bureau. There are data available on employees for 997 of the 3,143 American counties. The Census Bureau does not report local employee data when the count in a locale is so low that an observer could identify the employees or employers – such as if there were only one musical instrument manufacturer in a county. This is part of the reason that there is no data reported for many counties.


Additional Information: Average county indicator value = 0.50%. Median county indicator value = 0.30%.


Fast Facts from the Arts Index

International cultural tourism proves recession-proof. Arts travelers are ideal tourists—they stay longer and spend more.  The U.S. Dept of Commerce reports that the percentage of int’l travelers including museum visits on their trip has grown annually since 2003 (17% to 24%), while those including concerts and theater performances have increased five of the past seven years (13% to 17% since 2003).