The San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park is part of the city’s creative economy. Courtesy of BPOC

The arts may be suffering amid the pandemic, but a report commissioned before COVID finds the “creative economy” in San Diego can generate more than $11 billion annually.

The report by the city’s Commission for Arts and Culture and Economic Development Department examined the nonprofit and for-profit businesses and individuals that produce cultural, artistic and design goods or services and other intellectual property.

Using data from 2019, the report found 107,000 jobs at nearly 7,400 companies and organizations in industries ranging from architecture and interior design to digital media, fashion, museums, music and visual arts.

Creative jobs were found to have a “ripple effect,” with each supporting another 1.1 jobs and creating a large economic impact.

“To grow San Diego’s creative economy, we first need to understand it. This report is the starting point to understanding the space and trends over time,” said Jonathon Glus, executive director of the Commission for Arts and Culture. “Investing in creative industries can help advance San Diego as a creative city and it’s the ideal platform for cross-sector collaboration and innovation.”

The 2020 Creative Economy Study was conducted in partnership with the San Diego Regional EDC to examine the economic impact creative industries and their workers have on the region. It was released just before the Nov. 3 election.

Among the report’s other findings:

  • 59% of the creative economy is for-profit, 34% nonprofit and 7% government or other
  • The majority of creative firms and organizations are small, with 19 or fewer employees.
  • 41% of creative industry employers rely on independent contractors
  • The median annual income for creative occupations is $75,000

But a lot of that is on hold right now. Assembly Bill 5, which requires most independent contractors to become traditional shift employees, was cited as one problem facing the creative industry. The pandemic is another.

As of August, the economic impact of job losses in San Diego’s creative industries due to COVID-19 is estimated to be a decline of $2.1 billion.

“With a 23% decline in jobs, the arts have been hit even harder by the pandemic than most sectors of our economy,” said Mark Cafferty, president and CEO of the Regional EDC. “As San Diego recovers, it is imperative we continue to work with our arts and cultural leaders to create a more diverse and resilient arts industry to weather future economic downturns — for the sake of the vibrancy of our communities and our culture.”

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.