Outdoor Recreation Included in Economic Reports Starting 2017

By Charles Pekow & Steven Sheffield – How much does outdoor recreation contribute to the national economy? In 2016, Congress approved legislation calling on the Bureau of Economic Analysis at the U.S. Commerce Department to find out. The Bureau would work with the Departments of Agriculture and Interior and other federal agencies.

Cycling West - Cycling Utah Magazine logoThe study would attempt to determine how outdoor recreation contributes to sales, employment, tourism, etc. The bureau would also have to contact businesses, including small business. It could become a bigger deal than it appears, as in this day and age, if we want to advocate for bicycling, we have to show how it brings in sales, jobs and tax revenue. Politicians, government officials and business want to hear about that, not just the recreational and health benefits of bicycling, or the reduction in smog and traffic congestion.

The Outdoor Recreation Jobs & Economic Impact Act of 2016 (H.R. 4665) called for a report to Congress within two years.

On September 20, 2019, The Bureau of Economic Analysis released a report indicating that the U.S. outdoor recreation economy accounted for 2.2 percent ($427.2 billion) of current-dollar gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017. The Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account (ORSA) also shows that inflation-adjusted (real) GDP for the outdoor recreation economy grew by 3.9 percent in 2017, faster than the 2.4 percent growth of the overall U.S. economy.

Other value added by industry highlights include the following:

  • Retail trade had the second largest sector contribution to outdoor recreation nationally, accounting for $95.7 billion of current-dollar value added. Retail trade was the largest contributor to outdoor recreation value added in 17 states, including Texas ($8.5 billion), Washington ($2.8 billion), and Ohio ($2.7 billion).
  • Manufacturing contributed $51.7 billion nationally to the outdoor recreation economy in 2017 and was the third largest outdoor recreation sector. At the state level, manufacturing was the largest sector for outdoor recreation value added in Indiana ($4.7 billion), Wisconsin ($2.0 billion), Louisiana ($1.6 billion), and Kansas ($684.2 million).

The public is invited to submit comments on the prototype state statistics by emailing [email protected] before March 31, 2020. Feedback received will be used to help finalize data sources and methodology for official state outdoor recreation statistics, which are scheduled for release in the fall of 2020.

The full report is available on the Bureau of Economic Analysis's website at https://www.bea.gov/data/special-topics/outdoor-recreation.

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