B.C.’s digital media sector suffering from COVID-19

Average employment at the province’s largest companies has fallen 4.6% since 2019

With so many people in the pandemic economy restricted to watching movies or playing video games at home, it might seem surprising that British Columbia’s largest digital arts companies experienced a larger decline in employment than the province as a whole, according to data collected on BIV’s list of the biggest digital arts companies in B.C.

Across B.C., employment has recovered significantly from its lows in April and May, but it was still down 3.7% in September compared with February.

Meanwhile, the decline in employment at the province’s top digital arts companies since 2019 has averaged 4.6%.

Their median employment decline was significantly higher at 8.9%, suggesting that smaller companies lower on the list suffered more job losses during the pandemic compared with their larger counterparts higher on the list.

Digital companies average and median employment change

While companies lower on the list may have struggled more through the past year, the same can’t be said for the preceding four years.

Since 2016, the median number of B.C. employees at the province’s top digital arts companies jumped 88.9% to 255 in 2020 from 135 in 2016.

Before the pandemic struck, the median had more than doubled, increasing 107.4% to 280 in 2019.

During the same period, the average increased 12.5% to 384.7 in 2019 from 342.1 in 2016.

The largest company on the list, Electronic Arts, which produces many high profile videogames, including NHL and Star Wars, recorded the largest one-year employment drop on the list. Its number of employees decreased 37.6% to 1,300 in 2020 from 2,085 in 2019.

However, the list’s average one-year employment was up slightly (0.2%), which suggests that large companies with big employee declines dragged the list’s average overall employment level down. •