New Report: Creative Economy is Underpinning New England's Growth

Some Audience-Based Arts are up, But the Sector is Unstable

BOSTON -- A new report released today titled The Jobs in New England's Creative Economy and Why They Matter from the New England Foundation for the Arts has found that workers in the region’s creative sector earn more than $17 billion per year and are a bigger slice of the regional economy than in other areas of the nation. Creative economy employees are also powering nearly every key sector in New England, from education to technology and science, and artistic fields that require an audience are stable or thriving, the report found.

But the sector is not insulated from global trends in technology or changing consumer habits.

For example, as purchasing moves online, creative workers face more competition and less connection to the buyer. And the rise of the gig economy, in which more people are self-employed, also means many are living job to job, with stagnant wages, in need of affordable housing and health care, often without much of a safety net.

Because creative workers are such a big part of this region’s economy, any negative change has greater repercussions. New England’s payroll employment has increased by 2.9 percent since 2000, but payroll jobs at creative enterprises have declined by nearly 20 percent or more than 50,000 jobs, compared with a decline of 17 percent nationally during the same time. Until approximately 2010, New England’s creative enterprise jobs roughly paralleled the overall employment trends in the broader economy. But after the end of the recession in 2010, while total employment continued to recover and grow, creative enterprise employment progressively declined. Creative self-employed firms did increase during that time (3.5%), but not enough to offset the creative payroll jobs reduction in New England, and not as much as freelancers nationally (12%).

“These trends present a great opportunity for new ideas, policies, and business models,” says Cathy Edwards, executive director of NEFA. “Today, New England can claim the arts as one of our assets, with a higher percentage of artists as part of our workforce than the national average. There is solid demand for creative goods and services, but it won’t stay that way if we don’t find new ways to support creative business, nonprofits, and solo artists and creatives who are such a foundational part of our economy and culture, defining where we want to live, work or vacation. While NEFA has been tracking the sector for years, for example through our CreativeGround directory, this report and accompanying Creatives Count artist survey provides much needed data on jobs and income."

About NEFA
The New England Foundation for the Arts invests in the arts to enrich communities in New England and beyond.  NEFA accomplishes this by granting fund to artists and cultural organizations, connecting them to each other and their audiences, and analyzing their economic contributions.  NEFA serves as a regional partner for the National Endowment for the Arts, New England’s state arts agencies, and private foundations. NEFA has a 30+ year history of providing arts organizations with data-driven research to be used for advocacy to their local governments, strengthening and informing local, statewide, and regional efforts to build New England’s creative economy. NEFA research models, network resources, and online tools can be used by anyone in the U.S. to quantify and develop their own creative community. For more information, please visit For more information on those who make up New England’s creative economy, please visit

About the report
The New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) commissioned the Economic and Public Policy group of the UMass Donahue Institute (UMDI) to assess New England’s creative economy. The results of this study are detailed in their latest report, Jobs in the Creative Economy and Why They Matter. This report is part of NEFA’s ongoing effort to describe its current state and scale and  builds upon prior studies (The Creative Economy Initiative: The Role of the Arts and Culture in New England’s Economic Competitiveness in 2000 and The Creative Economy: A New Definition in 2007) by examining:

  • The current employment picture
  • Trend data since 2000
  • Local landscape of creative enterprises
  • A survey of artists and workers reflecting the realities of creative work life

read the full report.

CONTACT: Jackie D'Andrea, InkHouse | 781.966.4143

Stay Connected

Receive the latest news, grant offerings, and community events.

Sign up