Report Formally Recognizes Outdoor Recreation Among Nation’s Largest Sectors

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Helps Brief Capitol Hill on Outdoor Recreation Economy – Photo Credit: Risdon Photography

Washington, D.C. (September 20, 2018) – The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) today welcomed the final report on the first-ever government statistics recognizing the outdoor recreation industry as a significant contributor to the U.S. economy.

The report, federally funded by the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture and Commerce, was released today by Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). The new measurement – called the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account (ORSA) – would not have been possible without steadfast leadership from U.S. Senators Corey Gardner (R-CO) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). It finds that the outdoor recreation industry had a U.S. GDP contribution of 2.2 percent and annual gross economic output of $734 billion in 2016 (the last available year of data). This economic contribution level is greater than other key economic sectors, including the mining, utilities and chemical products manufacturing industries. In addition, with 4.5 million jobs, the outdoor recreation sector generates similar employment as other major job creators in the United States, including hospitals, transportation and warehousing, and educational services.

“As many of you know, the Commerce Department not only collects the economic data being presented today, but we are also home of NOAA and its National Marine Fisheries Service, and our national marine sanctuaries … Fishing alone creates fantastic opportunities for economic growth for the United States, and, according to the data we are releasing today, it is the number-one most impactful American outdoor activity … Thanks to the work of our team at the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and many of you in the outdoor recreation industry, our country now knows just how big and important your industry is to the U.S. economy … The numbers that BEA Director Brian Moyer will soon describe are simply phenomenal … They show that the outdoor recreation industry generated $412 billion in revenue in 2016, accounting for 2.2 percent of U.S. GDP in 2016 … That is a very, very large number. To put this industry in perspective, it is a bigger contributor to GDP than the chemical manufacturing sector at 2.1 percent, and all the nation’s utilities, at 1.5 percent of GDP.” — Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross

Today’s release was the final, revised report, following prototype statistics released in February. The updated report reflects expert comments and feedback solicited by BEA and submitted by a wide range of organizations in the outdoor recreation economy.

The release of the data is a significant milestone for the outdoor recreation industry, which has long called for its sector to be formally included in government economic analysis. To mark the announcement, ORR held a Capitol Hill briefing today with key federal officials, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Bureau of Economic Analysis Director Brian Moyer, Department of Interior Senior Advisor Rick May, and a video message from Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT).

“Today’s report provides official government recognition of the outdoor recreation industry as a powerful force in the American economy,” said Thom Dammrich, ORR chair and president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “As one of the nation’s largest economic sectors, it is critical that our national leaders do everything they can to keep the economic engine running at full speed. That includes common sense policies to expand public access, modernize infrastructure and remove barriers to efficient and effective public-private partnerships. We thank the teams at the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account for their tireless work in making today’s report possible.”

The BEA’s analysis also found outdoor recreation to have a strong wage growth rate of 4.3 percent between 2015-2016, which surpasses the overall U.S. wage growth of 2.7 percent during the same period.

“…outdoor recreation activities touch almost every sector and every industry in the U.S. economy.  In fact, it turns out that outdoor recreation activities show up in 67 out of the 71 industries that make up the U.S. economy.” — BEA Director Dr. Brian Moyer

“The outdoor recreation industry contribution to our nation’s GDP has more than pulled its weight, and we’ve been a major engine behind the recent economic growth rate.” said Frank Hugelmeyer, ORR vice chair and president of the RV Industry Association. “Due to its importance to the overall economy and especially rural communities, outdoor recreation deserves to be a priority at national and state levels. ORR looks forward to working collaboratively with leaders to implement growth-oriented policies that will ensure our industry remains a strong GDP contributor and jobs generator for years to come.”

ORR strongly supports continuing and expanding ORSA. Senate legislation funding the Department of Commerce operations for fiscal year 2019, beginning October 1, 2018, specifically includes on-going funding for ORSA and its expansion to generate state-level projections. ORR has called upon the House to follow the Senate’s lead on ORSA and thus implement the Congressional direction contained in the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act of 2016.

The full report issued by BEA can be found here.

To see more photos from the event, click here.