New Data Show Economic Activity of the U.S. Arts & Cultural Sector in 2021

National Endowment for the Arts,
16 March 2023, USA

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released data today that demonstrate the significant contribution of the arts and cultural industries to U.S. GDP in 2021 while also capturing the continued impact of the pandemic on the sector. The Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account (ACPSA) tracks the annual economic value of arts and cultural production from 35 industries—including both commercial and nonprofit entities. The 2021 data pinpoint the national and state-level contributions of the arts and cultural sector to the nation’s economy after the first year of COVID-19.

Analysis shows that while the total economic value added by arts and cultural industries grew by 13.7 percent from 2020-2021, several core arts industries did not return to pre-pandemic production levels. This group includes independent artists (as an industry), performing arts organizations (e.g., theater, dance, and opera companies, music groups; and circuses), and arts-related construction, among many others. Despite setbacks for those industries, the overall arts economy in 2021 represented 4.4 percent of GDP, or just over $1.0 trillion—a new high-water mark. 

Additionally, in 2021, just under 4.9 million workers were employed to produce arts and cultural goods and services, which is less than the 2019 (pre-pandemic) level of 5.2 million but more than the 2020 level of 4.6 million workers.

“This annual report from the NEA and BEA underscores that arts and culture are an essential part of the American economy. It is similarly apparent, however, that the sector still faces tremendous hardships due to COVID-19,” said NEA Chair Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD. “Because the data reflect the economic activity of nonprofit and for-profit organizations alike, it’s important to recognize the distinctive contributions both make in ensuring a vibrant and expansive arts and cultural sector.”

national summary report and an accompanying interactive graphic are available on In addition, the NEA has developed a state-level summary report outlining the value added by arts and cultural industries to states’ economies, as well as an interactive map with state-level estimates of arts and cultural value-added, employment, and compensation figures derived from the ACPSA. 

For additional state-level resources, BEA has produced ACPSA fact sheets for each state, and, in partnership with the NEA, the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies has created an interactive dashboard by state.