BEA Updates Outdoor Recreation Economic Numbers

Updated statistics from the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account (ORSA), released today by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), show that the outdoor recreation economy accounted for 2.2 percent ($412 billion) of current-dollar GDP in 2016. According to the report, using inflation-adjusted (real) GDP, the outdoor recreation economy grew 1.7 percent in 2016, faster than the 1.6 percent growth for the overall U.S. economy. In addition, real gross output, compensation, and employment all grew faster in outdoor recreation than in the overall economy in 2016.

The statistics released today are updated to include refinements in methodology and presentation incorporated by BEA after receiving public feedback to the prototype statistics released February 14, 2018.

Before using these impressive figures in PowerPoints, however, it’s important to remember that BEA admittedly uses a rather broad definition of outdoor recreation, and the figures include lots of “supporting activities.”

“Outdoor recreation activities fall into three general categories: conventional core activities (including activities such as bicycling, boating, hiking and hunting); other core activities (including activities such as gardening and outdoor concerts); and supporting activities (including construction, travel and tourism, local trips, and government expenditures),” said BEA in the report. “In 2016, conventional outdoor recreation accounted for 32.7 percent of real outdoor recreation gross output, other recreation accounted for 19.3 percent, and supporting activities accounted for the remaining 47.9 percent.”

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The largest line under “supporting activities,” according the BEA’s report, is “travel and tourism,” which includes transportation costs while traveling, any food and beverages purchased and even any shopping or souvenirs purchased while on an outdoor-based adventure.

In terms of outdoor rec by activity, Boating/Fishing was the largest core outdoor recreation activity in 2016, accounting for $36.9 billion of real gross output. Motorcycling/ATVing activities accounted for $20.3 billion of real gross output in 2016, representing one of the fastest-growing activities at 8 percent growth from the previous year. Multi-use apparel and accessories, such as backpacks and bug spray, that cannot be linked to a specific activity accounted for 12.2 percent, or $89.3 billion, of real gross output in 2016.

Looking at the report by industry, “arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services” – which includes any side trips to museums, casinos, spectator sport events or amusement parks – was the largest industry for both compensation ($68.8 billion) and employment (1.96 million) in 2016. Retail trade was the second-largest industry for both compensation ($45.7 billion) and employment (1.37 million) in 2016.

Outdoor recreation real gross output for manufacturing was $177.5 billion in 2016, the largest of all industries. About 44 percent of this value came from petroleum and coal products.

Check out the report and further information here.


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