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Business & Economy

February jobs mystery: Why did movie and sound recording increase by so much?

The movie and recording industries added more jobs from January to February than ever before.
The movie and recording industries added more jobs from January to February than ever before.
Alex Pitt Photography (via The Hollywood Sign Trust)

In Friday's February jobs report, the Labor Department reported that motion picture and sound recording industries saw their largest month-over-month hiring increase ever.

That's right: the largest increase EVER.

In January, 374,800 people worked in the two industries; in February, 395,600 did, a spike of 20,800 jobs. That comes close to matching the entire year-over-year increase of 24,800 jobs from last February.

(Thanks to Business Insider's Joe Weisenthal for noticing the big jump in a Federal Reserve Economic Data chart.)

This is particularly interesting for Los Angeles County, which accounts for almost 35 percent of all motion picture and sound recording jobs in the U.S., according to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation. Those jobs translate in about $19 billion in total payroll.

So what caused entertainment industry hiring to rise so much from January to February?

"I wish I could give you a smoking gun," saids John Mullins, an Economist at the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

"The people who participate in our survey sent us the data that reflected that increase. We look for errors or anomalies, but we didn't see anything that would stop us from using the information."

Mullins said that hiring in the movie and music businesses tends to fluctuate month to month, but that the January-February increase was much larger than what the BLS has seen for some time.

In 2001, for example, the month-over-month increase was 12,900, Mullins said.

But today's report blew that away.

"It's preliminary data," Mullins said. "And we'll receive additional data from people who haven't reported yet. But the bottom line is that this is what the data said."

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