"Employment in the Performing Arts: Reality and Myth" is a new study published by the Labor Institute for Human Enrichment Inc., in cooperation with the AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees. Among its findings:
Performing artists are more prone to unemployment than other members of the workforce. A 1980 study showed that 76 percent of professional dancers, 67 percent of actors, 61 percent of singers, 35 percent of musicians and 21 percent of broadcast performers (disc jockeys, announcers, newscasters) experienced some unemployment compared with 18 percent for other members of the workforce.
Unemployment for performers was also severe in frequency and duration. In 1980, 15 percent of all unemployed workers in America had three or more jobless periods, but 34 percent of performing artists had three or more jobless periods. More than 50 percent of all singers and actors were without work for 16 or more weeks, compared with the national median of 13 weeks. Female performers experienced more weeks of unemployment than their male counterparts.
Among singers unemployed during part of the year, the disparity was small (65 percent for females, 64 percent for males). It was most widespread in the broadcasting field, with 42 percent of women and 17 percent of men experiencing some unemployment.
The "surviving on unemployment benefits" myth also failed to prove valid. Except for dancers, less than 50 percent of the unemployed performers collected unemployment compensation in 1980; only 20 percent of musicians and 25 percent of singers received benefits. Figures were higher for broadcasters (35 percent), actors (45 percent) and dancers (60 percent). The report also pointed out that infrequent job opportunities and long periods of unemployment often prevent performers from compiling sufficient work experience to qualify for benefits.