LOL: New York Times Blames Bad Jobs Month On Plunge In Porn Industry

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Excerpted from NYTIMES: The pornography industry, long accustomed to being a scapegoat for the country’s moral ills, is now being blamed for America’s economic failings, too.

Employment in the motion picture and sound recording industries plunged in August, for a loss of 22,200 jobs. It was the sector with the biggest losses last month, and also represented the largest monthly decline since the Labor Department started keeping track of jobs in the industry in 1990.

Some have attributed the job losses to the X-rated film industry. After an H.I.V. scare, the industry temporarily shut down around the time that the Labor Department conducts its monthly survey.

It sounds like a plausible theory, but there are a few reasons to be skeptical.

First, the numbers are volatile from month to month, and for some reason have gotten more so in recent years. So the decline could just be noise.Second, as Josh Barro points out, workers are counted by the Labor Department as employed if they worked anytime in the pay period including Aug. 12, and depending on when industry employees are paid, the shutdown may have fallen in a different pay period (since it was Aug. 21-27). I’m actually not sure if this definitively disproves the argument for blaming the porn industry, since it’s plausible that the 12th could be in the same pay period as the shutdown, depending on how regularly industry paychecks go out, and since employees may not come into the office or studio every day.

Third, the motion picture and sound recording sector has 366,000 jobs, but the much smaller pornographic film industry may not employ 22,200 people even when things are good. The Los Angeles Times reported that the industry generated 10,000 jobs annually. I contacted an industry group, the Free Speech Coalition, to ask about this estimate, and was told they did not have an accurate figure available for the whole industry.

But in an e-mail, a spokeswoman, Joanne Cachapero, did mention another reason to be skeptical that the pornography shutdown drove the large decline in film payrolls: performers in X-rated films, who number about 3,000, are independent contractors, which means they wouldn’t be counted in the Labor Department’s payroll data anyway. Everyone who works behind the scenes (directors, editors, camera operators, wardrobe and catering workers, drivers, publicists and so forth), though, is a payroll employee and would be affected.

That said, she also suggested that ripple effects from a pornography production moratorium could affect employment in related industries as it could disrupt “activities like set building and more support-services type of employment.” That’s one way a 10,000-person subsector, if wholly out of commission, could potentially reduce total motion picture industry employment by more than 10,000.

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