The National Endowment for the Arts Announces New Research on Arts Employment

Washington, DC – What are the latest employment figures for working artists—both full-time and their moonlighting counterparts? Keeping My Day Job: Identifying U.S. Workers Who Have Dual Careers As Artists is the third installment in the National Endowment for the Arts' Arts Data Profiles, an online resource offering facts and figures from large, national datasets about the arts, along with instructions for their use. Arts Data Profile #3 reports on employment statistics for U.S. workers who name “artist” as their primary or secondary job.

The analysis springs from the Current Population Survey (CPS), a nationwide, monthly survey of 60,000 American households, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The CPS is the primary source of U.S. labor statistics, as well as other data on volunteering, poverty, computer and Internet use, arts participation, and more. 

Among the key findings:

The big picture - In 2013, 2.1 million workers held primary positions as artists. A primary job is defined as one at which the greatest number of hours were worked. In that same year, an estimated 271,000 workers also held second jobs as artists. Twelve percent of all artist jobs in 2013 were secondary employment.

Unemployment trends - For primary artists, the unemployment rate was 7.1 percent in 2013, compared to 6.6 percent of all U.S. civilian workers, but higher than the 3.6 rate for all professionals (artists are grouped in the professional category). This is an improvement over the 9 percent jobless rates in 2009 and 2010, but well above the pre-recession unemployment rate of 3.6 percent in 2006. Architects and designers were among the hardest hit occupations. While both have halved the 10-11 percent unemployment rates they faced in 2009, neither is back to pre-recession employment rates of 1-3 percent. By contrast, musicians have faced a steady unemployment rate of 8-9 percent since 2009, much higher than the 4.8 percent jobless rate in 2006.

Unemployment Rates: 2009-20013

Click on graphic for full resolution chart in PDF format.

Top moonlighting gigs - Musicians topped the ranks of secondary artist jobs held (84,000 in 2013), followed by designers (36,2000) and photographers (32,100). For some artist occupations, secondary work makes up a large share of overall jobs: among them are announcers (38 percent), musicians (29 percent), and 21 percent of “other entertainers."


Click on graphic for full resolution chart in PDF format.

The entrepreneurial spirit - In 2013, 61 percent of artists with a second job were self-employed, compared to the 35 percent of primary, self-employed artists, and 10 percent of all U.S. workers. 

Creative and educated  - Artists with either day jobs or night jobs were better educated than the overall labor force. In 2013, 65 percent of primary and secondary artists held bachelor's degrees or higher levels of education, compared to 32 percent of all U.S. workers.

Professional league - Most people with a second job in the arts have a primary job in the professional category. These are occupations that usually require college training, such as doctors, lawyers, teachers, artists, social workers, clergy, and librarians. In 2013, nearly 21 percent of all workers holding second jobs as artists were teachers (post-secondary, secondary, and "other" teachers at music and dance schools, for example); 18 percent of secondary artists also worked as artists in their primary occupation.

This Arts Data Profile offers sample findings, employment statistics about primary artists, and additional information on artist occupations, multiple jobholding, and the Current Population Survey. Previous installments of the series are Equal Opportunity Data Mining: National Statistics about Working Artists and Accounting for the Nation's Arts and Cultural Goods and Services.

About NEA Research

The NEA is the only federal agency to conduct periodic analyses of the value and impact of the arts in American life. For nearly 40 years, the NEA Office of Research & Analysis has produced research publications, conferences, and data sources on arts-related topics of interest to policy-makers, educators, journalists, cultural researchers and practitioners, and the general public. Many of these products have emerged in consultation or collaboration with other federal agencies such as the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In recent years, the NEA launched a new research grant opportunity to support research that investigates the value and/or impact of the arts.

About the National Endowment for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector. To join the discussion on how art works, visit the NEA at

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Sally Gifford

NEA Public Affairs