I received a phone call not long ago from a studio administrator who said:
Just to give you a heads up. We're not laying anybody off, but we're asking people in some departments to go on voluntary hiatus for a month or so. We've got some production slowdowns ...
This is actually, to my mind, pretty enlightened. Anytime a studio works to keep people employed, that's a good thing.
Lots of artists and technicians in our business are scrambling right now. Freelance work, short schedules for in-house studio work, it's all part of the current landscape. Many cartoon veterans have been forced to work outside of animation because jobs that they worked for years are more scanty, so they work in in some small graphics house and pick up animation freelance on the side.
It's probably small comfort, but it seems to be the way of the nation. If you take a look at the graphic above, you'll note that the number of workers forced into part-time work has sky-rocketed:
In December, the number of persons who worked part time for economic reasons (some-times referred to as involuntary part-time workers) continued to increase, reaching 8.0 million. The number of such workers rose by 3.4 million over the past 12 months. This category includes persons who would like to work full time but were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find full-time jobs.
Kind of describes swaths of the animation industry to a tee.
Total unemployment -- which encompasses laid off workers and under-employed workers, now stands at 13.5%. Yeowch.