Flat where it's at for biz jobs

Small gains seen in 2010 as runaway production, reality TV take toll

Local entertainment employment will be flat in 2009 and post a modest uptick next year, but the long-term outlook remains worrisome.

In a report to be circulated today, the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. said the local motion picture and sound-recording industries will add about 1,000 jobs this year, while broadcasters and cable companies will cut 1,000 positions.

In 2010, the local entertainment sector will add about 2,000 jobs to bring film employment to 128,000 and TV employment to 19,000, the LAEDC estimates. But runaway film production and small-staff reality TV programming remain threatening trends, according to LAEDC economist Jack Kyser.

"Runaway production of feature films could get worse," he said. "Everybody and their dog is offering incentives, but there are still no incentives from the state of California, so what you're seeing is that ever more filming is being done out of state."

The 2008 WGA strike accelerated a shift in TV production, Kyser added.

"It has tilted everything toward reality," he said. "Everybody is looking toward costs with all the declining viewership at the broadcast networks, so you're looking at a possible change in your business model."

If NBC's gambit of putting Jay Leno's new talk show in primetime succeeds, other networks might make similar moves and further erode scripted programming, he suggested.

"The trends that you see are not favorable," Kyser said. "The Academy Awards are coming up, with all their glitz and glamour, but you have to look behind the curtain, where all the gears and levers are turning."

The LAEDC said federal economic-stimulus programs are likely to create about 112,000 jobs in Los Angeles County and 400,000 statewide. But even that good news is deceiving, according to Kyser.

"The federal government will be putting money in people's pockets, while California will be taking it out," he said, noting the Golden State's fiscal woes. (partialdiff)