The surprising industry that added 670,000 jobs last year

When a recession hits, architects often take it in the gut. The design sector has always been one of the losers of a market downturn, with major property developments on hold and the need for architectural design services abandoned. But during the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, architecture has been surprisingly robust.

Among five different creative industries in California, including entertainment, fashion and the arts, architecture and its related services have been the most resilient. Between 2019 and 2020, the industry only saw a 2.2% decline in employment, and even that appears to have been a temporary lull.

Nationally, the industry added 670,000 jobs in 2021, the most since before the global financial crisis. From 2019 to April 2021, the number of companies in the sector even increased, increasing by around 8%. Architecture, often a canary in the coal mine for recessions, appears to be an indicator of a pandemic recovery.

These figures come from 2022 Otis College Creative Economy Report. Published annually by the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, the report tracks the economic health of the creative industries in California, focusing specifically on five sectors: architecture; creative goods and products; entertainment and digital media; fashion; and fine and performing arts. These industries account for nearly 12% of the state’s gross domestic product, with a high concentration of jobs and economic activity in the greater Los Angeles area. Architecture and related fields such as landscape architecture, civil and building engineering, drafting and interior design represent a nearly $30 billion industry in California.

According to economist Adam Fowler, partner at CVL Economics, author of the report, this year’s pink picture for the architectural sector has several main causes.

Mainly, there is just a lot of demand for architectural design in cities across California and the country.

“There is such a backlog in the supply of commercial and residential space in many of our major metropolitan areas that have seen strong job growth for so long,” Fowler said, noting that demand is particularly high for affordable housing and small projects such as secondary suites. units. “We are so behind. . . with the current price levels for residential in California, I am constantly asked if this is a new bubble. No it is not. Tragically no. It’s just a real request.

The resilience of the industry has been evident across the country during the pandemic, leading many owners and businesses to think differently about their indoor and outdoor real estate. Architects and designers stepped in to help.

“There was a lot of space expense. People who ran a school, ran an office, did a lot of work from their primary residence, there was a lot of investment in making those spaces more functional, more livable,” Fowler says. “It may not have been the opening of the new concert hall, but it was the work, particularly in the landscape architecture space, that may have filled in some of the gaps.”

New York State, the other main center of architectural employment in the United States, has been hardest hit during the pandemic, with architecture and related fields seeing a 7.1% decline in employment At New York. But those numbers reflect a California-like temporary drop in an otherwise upward trend. Overall, jobs related to architecture have also increased there. Between 2007 and 2020, they increased 5.9% statewide and 11.4% in New York.

Of course, architects from California and New York don’t only design in these places. Fowler says the rise in architectural work across the country could lead to continued growth in the industry, especially as more places come to terms with the backlog of development and the need for more affordable housing. “This sector, he says, is helped by localities that can build things.”

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