Christine Harbin
Last month, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy published a press release stating that fewer people are now employed in the movie industry in Michigan than before the state began to provide tax credits to filmmakers:
"Film incentive supporters often point to particular jobs generated by the program's subsidies as evidence of its success," [Mackinac Center Fiscal Policy Analyst James] Hohman said. "But the reality is that the state is redistributing millions of taxpayers' dollars to one industry that happens to be employing fewer people."

Unfortunately, this trend holds true for Missouri, as well.

Using the state cross-industry estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, I isolated the "motion picture and sound recording industries" category (NAICS code 512) for Missouri, from years 2002 to 2009. Using the 2002 Economic Census, I isolated this information for 1997. (I was unable to find this data for 1998 to 2001 online, but I will continue to look.)

Average Employment Film Industry

There were 4,143 people in Missouri employed in this category in 1997, and 3,949 in 2009. This means that more people were employed in the industry in Missouri before the state began offering targeted tax credits in 1998.

To further illustrate this decline in movie-related jobs in Missouri, I downloaded Industry Information by NAICS Sectors from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center website. I isolated the following occupations: "Film and Video Editors" (OCC_CODE: 27-4032), "Actors" (OCC_CODE: 27-2011), "Producers and Directors" (OCC_CODE: 27-2012 and 34056), and "Camera Operators" (OCC_CODE: 27-4031, 34026, 89713). This produced the following graph:

Film Employment by Occupation

  • "Film and Video Editors"  increased, but only marginally. This occupation rose from 130 in 1997 to 300 in 2009.

  • The "Actors" category decreased most significantly. This occupation employed 1,540 Missourians in 1999, and 700 in 2009, which represents a decline of 54 percent. The lowest number of actors employed was 430, in 2003.

  • The number of "Producers and Directors" peaked at 1,170 in 1998, and didn't return to this level until 2009.

  • "Camera Operators" neither increased nor decreased significantly during this period.

The data show that the film industry in Missouri hasn't experienced significant job growth as a consequence of film tax credits. In fact, the number of Missourians employed in the film industry has decreased. Why, then, has the Missouri state government spent approximately $13 million over the last 10 years on this program? Why are there continued calls for expanding this program?

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Christine Harbin

Christine Harbin