While casinos hire, arts struggle with job losses

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

Ohio’s arts, entertainment and recreation sector lost 8,300 jobs in November, which was the largest monthly decline since at least 1990 and contributed to Ohio leading the nation in job losses last month, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The sector, however, had added an impressive number of workers this year, and the losses came one month after its payrolls peaked at 76,000 employees in October.

But the job trends are not uniform across the sector.

Gambling establishments have hired thousands of Ohioans since spring 2012. But some performing arts groups, museums, live music venues and galleries across the state have been forced to reduce their staffs to cope with declining revenue, according to industry experts.

“Unfortunately when money got tight that was one of the last things people would spend their money on,” said Esther Hall, organizational administrator and gallery manager with the Ohio Art League in Columbus. “With the loss of the patrons for the arts it made it difficult to keep people employed.”

Employment in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector bounced around this year, but it rose to 76,000 workers in October from 66,000 workers in January.

Sector payrolls rebounded to pre-recession levels in 2012, and they rose to new heights this year.

Impact from casinos

The job growth corresponds with the state welcoming its first casinos.

Since May 2012, casinos have opened in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo, and there is now 6,000 people licensed in the state to work in gaming-related roles, according to Ohio Casino Control Commission. That does not include casino employees who serve food and beverages and provide other services.

Miami Valley Gaming racino in Warren County opened earlier this month and employs about 525 workers. Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway plans to open its doors next year, and it has posted numerous job openings on its Facebook page.

Penn National Gaming employs about 2,300 people in Ohio, the bulk of which work at Hollywood Casino Columbus and Hollywood Casino in Toledo. The company hired nearly all of its employees since the casinos opened in 2012, said Bob Tenenbaum, company spokesman.

But despite a score of a new job opportunities related to gambling, employment in the sector in Ohio plunged last month by 10.3 percent, preliminary data show.

Prior to November, the largest single-month decline was 8.7 percent, which occurred in January 1993, according to data that dates back to 1990.

Monthly labor data is volatile and subject to later revisions. Experts caution people against reading too much into monthly numbers.

The gambling industry’s growth makes it unlikely that the sector’s job losses were related to casinos and race tracks.

Arts community takes hit

But some arts groups said they have struggled to maintain payrolls because of declining revenue.

People too often overlook the value of art in their everyday lives and so they view it as an inessential expense, Hall said.

But art, exhibitions and performances alleviate stress, enrich people’s lives and cultural understandings and can be powerful, inspiring and invigorating, she said.

“I look at art as respite from the daily toils of life and that it can stimulate the senses and soul,” she said.

Hiring has been mostly at a standstill for the Ohio Art League due to funding issues, and the organization is heavily reliant on volunteers and interns, Hall said.

In the Dayton region, corporate sponsorships and philanthropic commitments for arts groups has declined since 2009, said Eva Buttacavoli, executive director of the Dayton Visual Arts Center.

Many smaller companies have not made supporting the arts community a priority, she said.

Cityfolk’s Board of Trustees last week finished disbanding the local arts organization. The 2014 Cityfolk festival was canceled months ago, and the group’s employees were let go because of financial problems.

Musical play attendance declined at a 9 percent rate between 2008 and 2012, according to the 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts by the National Endowment for the Arts.

It was the first significant drop in attendance since the group’s 1985 survey.

Non-musical play attendance fell at a 12 percent rate during the same period.

Museum-going also trended downward.

About 21 percent of adults, or 47 million Americans, visited an art museum or gallery in 2012, down from 23 percent in 2008, the survey found.

Still, almost half of U.S. adults attended at least one type of visual or performing arts activity in 2012.

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