The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR), on Sept. 20, 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 by Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). The new measurement is called the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account (ORSA). 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. 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.
The release was the final, revised report, following prototype statistics released last 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 organized a Capitol Hill briefing 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).
“The report provides official government recognition of the outdoor recreation industry as a powerful force in the American economy,” Ed Klim, board member of ORR and president of the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association, said. “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, which surpasses the overall U.S. wage growth of 2.7 percent.
“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,” Klim said. “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 Oct. 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.