News Story

Fewer People Employed in Michigan Movie Industry Than Before Film Tax Credits Began

MIDLAND - There has been a nearly 10 percent drop in movie industry employment in the state over the past two years since the Michigan film incentive went into effect and doled out  $117 million, according to Mackinac Center Fiscal Policy Analyst James Hohman.

"Film incentive supporters often point to particular jobs generated by the program's subsidies as evidence of its success," 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."

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of September 2009 (the most recent month available)*, there were 5,290 people in Michigan employed under the category of "motion picture and sound recording industries." In April 2008, when legislation was signed creating the film subsidy program, that same classification reported 5,867 jobs, or 9.8 percent more.

Michigan Film Jobs - click to enlarge

 "While the film incentive program has succeeded at making this very small piece of the state's economy more visible, the actual data shows that it has failed to increase the overall number of film jobs in the state, let alone provide a source of growth for any other industry," Hohman said.

The film subsidy is estimated to cost $155 million in fiscal 2010, Hohman noted, which is equal to 7 percent of what the Michigan Business Tax extracts from other state businesses.


* The BLS does have a survey that releases monthly job figures with only a one-month lag, but the information raises privacy concerns when there are few firms and little employment. Despite having the most generous film incentive program in the country, Michigan's film industry still does not have enough companies or jobs to qualify for monthly disclosure via this survey.


Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.