As robots, artificial intelligence and other labor saving innovations penetrate the economy, traditional jobs that entail making things or providing routine services — Toro is testing a robotic lawn mower for golf courses, for Pete’s sake — could disappear. The only jobs that will be left, it seems, are those in which we humans entertain one another.
In apparent confirmation of this view, the American consumption of “entertainment” services — sports, music, theater, art — is one of the economy’s stronger growth sectors. Spending rose steadily over the 2000s until taking a hit in the 2007-2008 recession. The number of sports- and entertainment-related jobs also has grown — 30% over the past decade, reports Joshua Wright in New Geography.
The most entertainment-intensive metropolitan regions (measured by jobs as a percentage of the workforce) are, not surprisingly, Los Angeles (2.06 times the national average), Nashville (2.02 times), San Francisco (1.51 times), New York (1.43 times) and Las Vegas (1.29 times).
Also, no surprise, Virginia MSAs rank fairly low in sports/ entertainment intensity. The Washington metro ranks just above the national average — politics is a blood sport, after all — while Richmond ranks just under. Among the nation’s 50 metro areas, Hampton Roads ranks near the bottom.
Now, here’s what’s interesting for my ongoing analysis of the Richmond region’s creative class: Among the MSAs studied, Richmond ranked No. 2, behind Austin, in the growth in the number of sports/entertainment jobs between 2008 and 2012. Austin truly rocks. Ranking 6th in the country for sports/entertainment occupational intensity, the region grew the number of jobs in that category by 18.4%. But Richmond increased the number of jobs by 13.4%.
It’s not clear which specific occupational categories are leading the way in Richmond. Wright’s data does not drill that deep. But given the dearth of professional sports in the Richmond region, it’s difficult to imagine that the number of referees, umpires, coaches, scouts and professional athletes accounts for much of the increase — although the region does have exceptionally active amateur athletic programs. Based on my personal acquaintances, I’m guessing that musicians and singers predominate.
Be that as it may, the increasingly bohemian tint to the Richmond workforce augurs well for developing a culture of creativity and innovation, the traits needed to excel in a globally competitive knowledge economy. The downside is that these guys aren’t making much money. An average hourly wage of $15.50 an hour translates into annual income of about $31,000 a year.
Actually, the story is a bit more complicated than that. Wright makes the point that the big growth has been among the self-employed and free-lancers — “moms and dads coaching their kids (or serving as referees) in soccer, office workers moonlighting in a band that does local gigs, men and women working part-time for the local stage company as an actor or director.”
In other words, many people are working in the sports/entertainment occupations either because they got laid off from their regular jobs or they see the work as a supplementary source of income. Given my druthers, I’d like to see more scientists and entrepreneurs making fat salaries and creating massive wealth that trickles down to the rest of us. But, hey, you take what you can get. At least the town is a fun place to live.
Hat tip: FreeDem