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Outdoor Recreation Contributed 2.2 Percent to U.S. GDP


The final report with the first-ever government statistics recognizing the outdoor recreation industry as a significant contributor to the U.S. economy has been released, according to the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR). SEMA is one of the organizations serving as a member in the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable.

The report, released by the Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), was funded by the Agriculture and Commerce division within the Departments of the Interior. The report—called the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account (ORSA)—found the outdoor recreation industry had a U.S. GDP contribution of 2.2 percent and annual gross economic output of $734 billion in 2016. 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 U.S. job creators, including hospitals, transportation and warehousing, and educational services.

The report also found outdoor recreation to have a wage growth rate of 4.3 percent between 2015-‘16, which surpasses the overall U.S. wage growth of 2.7 percent during the same period.

“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.”

The ORSA report was the final and revised version that followed 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, according to the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable.

“Today’s report provides official government recognition of the outdoor recreation industry as a powerful force in the American economy,” said Thom Dammrich, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable 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.”

ORR strongly supports continuing and expanding the ORSA report. Senate legislation funding the Department of Commerce operations for fiscal year 2019, beginning Oct. 1, specifically includes on-going funding for ORSA and its expansion to generate state-level projections. Outdoor Recreation Roundtable has called upon the U.S. House of Representatives to follow the Senate’s lead on ORSA and 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.

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