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Hooray for Hollywood Jobs

Industry Still Mostly Seasonal

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The fall television season has finally kicked off, and with it the hectic production schedules that crank out episode after episode, week-in and week-out until the end of May.

But Hollywood has witnessed a series of disruptive changes in recent years, including the emergence of new television distribution channels (e.g., Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc.) and competition from other states and metros in providing generous tax benefits to lure production.

At the same time — perhaps because of these disruptions — there has never been as much television as there is today. According to data from FX Networks Research, 409 scripted original series aired in 2015 across broadcast television, basic cable, premium cable and online services. The number has increased by a whopping 88% in the past five years. And that translates into job growth.

The increase in new television programming also represents a boon for those employed by the motion picture industry, including writers, casting agents, set decorators and so on. Indeed, despite intense competition for shoot locations, the Los Angeles metro still owns the lion’s share of production activity, measured in the number of shoot days. Historically — and still to this day — most production activity in Los Angeles occurs within the Thirty-Mile Zone (from which the tabloid "TMZ" draws its name).

The growth in new TV series has increased the number of television shoot days in Los Angeles: 4,000 in the second quarter of 2016 alone, compared to 2,773 in all of 2010.

Yet, because of the strict production deadlines (which largely don’t affect online distribution channels), Hollywood jobs are often seasonally driven.

Hiring is highest in February and August, and lowest in January. In fact, only February, March, August and November (and, to an extent, October) are positive hiring periods. This aligns with the television season and production schedules. Seasonal hiring is more evident in the following chart of actual employment in the motion picture & sound recording subsector of the Information industry sector (not seasonally adjusted).

When examining the not seasonally adjusted employment levels and job gains for any metropolitan area (such as Los Angeles), it is wise to bear in mind that one of the key industries in the area may exhibit strong seasonality that could skew your analysis. Seasonality occurs quite frequently in apartment and student housing leasing, typically due to school schedules. In Hollywood, it accounts for the dips and spikes in employment totals.

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