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Report: Outdoor Rec Generates $788B, Supports 5.2M Jobs

The outdoor recreation industry is a major economic driver, a new report said.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) on Tuesday released updated economic data showing that the outdoor recreation industry generates $788 billion in economic output, supports 5.2 million jobs and comprises 2.1 percent of U.S. GDP.

This is the third consecutive year that BEA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, has released data on the outdoor recreation economy and the third year the industry has shown growth across the board.

Key highlights from BEA’s new report on the outdoor recreation economy include:

  • In terms of economic output, boating/fishing, RVing, hunting/shooting/trapping, motorcycling/ATVing, and equestrian sports are the five largest conventional outdoor recreation activities.
  • The top states where outdoor recreation accounts for the largest percentage of each states’ total GDP are Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Vermont and Wyoming.
  • The top five states where outdoor recreation accounts for the largest percentage of total U.S. GDP are California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas.
  • Notably, the report found that RVing was the second-largest conventional outdoor recreation activity (just behind boating/ fishing), at $18.6 billion. The report also found that RVing was the largest conventional activity in 10 states and the second-largest in 22 states.

Dirk van Duym, an economist with the BEA who helped prepare the report, noted that the outdoor recreation industry ranks higher than agriculture and mining in terms of total economic output.

“This year’s data on the impact of the outdoor recreation economy is reaffirming for the entire outdoor recreation industry, particularly after the last few months we have all had,” said Jessica Turner, executive director of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR). “The fact the industry generates $788 billion in output, comprises 2.1 percent of U.S. GDP and supports 5.2 million jobs is huge for the U.S economy, rural and gateway communities and Americans looking for jobs or to start a career in a growing and powerful industry. This, combined with the recent passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, bolsters the benefits of the outdoor recreation economy and our efforts to ensure all Americans have access to our public lands and waters.”

“The BEA release of economic data comes at a time when the health and wellness benefits of recreation cannot be overstated,” said Lise Aangeenbrug, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association. “A recent poll showed 69 percent of Americans have gained a renewed appreciation for the outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic. People want to get outside for their physical and mental health. What’s more, they yearn for social connection, which they can find through safely distanced activities in neighborhood parks or national parks. … Now more than ever, we need the outdoors.”

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Bradley Worrell

Bradley Worrell is the editor of RV PRO Magazine.

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