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.

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.

Absolute payroll dollars give a sense of scale, but not of the impact on an overall economy. To understand that impact, these figures can be compared to total payrolls for all industries. This particular indicator measures the share of all employees’ payroll in a county that is generated in the arts and culture industries, using 2009 County Business Patterns data from the Census Bureau. This is done using the same 44 NAICS codes used to estimate numbers of employees and establishments in arts and culture industries.

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. Partly because of this policy, and partly because there are no arts-related businesses in some counties, there are data available on employees for 1,293 of the 3,143 American counties.


Additional Information: Average county indicator value = 0.70%. Median county indicator value = 0.50%.


Fast Facts from the Arts Index

Consumer arts spending steady at $150 billion!

Since 2002, consumer spending on the arts has remained in the $150 billion range, though as a share of all expenditures it has slipped from 1.88% in 2002 to 1.45% in 2010. Following four years of decreases, musical instrument sales rebounded, growing from $5.9 billion in 2009 to $6.3 billion in 2010.