Arts & Culture = 4.4% of GDP in 2021

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The nation’s arts and culture sector—nonprofit, commercial, education—was a $1.02 trillion industry in 2021, a new high-water mark. This represents 4.4% of the nation’s economy—a larger share of GDP than powerhouse sectors such as transportation, construction, and agriculture, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). The 2021 figure is a 14.4% increase from a revised $888 billion in 2020 (13.7% when adjusted for inflation). The arts also registered a $17.8 billion international trade surplus in 2021 (down from $28.5 billion in 2020).

  • In 2021, 4.9 million workers were employed to produce arts and cultural goods and services. That is less than the 2019 level of 5.2 million (pre-pandemic), but more than the first year of the pandemic (4.6 million workers in 2020).
  • Arts and culture also represent an important share of state economies: California (7.7%), Utah (3.6%), Oregon (3.4%), Florida (3.1%), Minnesota (3.0% – 85,015 jobs – $12,436,176,000 total value added).
  • Lest we forget the pandemic’s devasting impact on the arts in 2020, an analysis by BEA/NEA reported, “In year one of the COVID-19 pandemic, few areas of the U.S. economy were harder hit than the performing arts: Performing arts presenters and performing arts companies joined oil drilling/exploration and air transportation as the steepest-declining areas of the U.S. economy in 2020. After adjusting for inflation, the value added by performing arts presenters (including festivals) fell by nearly 73 percent between 2019 and 2020.”
  • That the BEA measures arts and culture production in the U.S. is itself an indication of the important role of the arts in building a healthy economy and ensuring global competitiveness.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account, 2023.