OIA Celebrates New BEA Report Showing Outdoor Recreation Growing Faster than Overall U.S. Economy

Outdoor Industry Association News Release, September 20, 2019

Outdoor Industry Association is celebrating the release of the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ update of outdoor recreation economy’s growth compared to the national economy and new analysis for the industry’s contribution to each state’s economy. The updated national analysis, released through the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account (ORSA), shows that, “inflation-adjusted (real) GDP for the outdoor recreation economy grew by 3.9 percent in 2017, faster than the 2.4 percent growth of the overall U.S. economy.” The release also includes a prototype estimate for all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and includes national breakouts for Outdoor Recreation GDP by Activity, Outdoor Recreation GDP by Industry, Outdoor Recreation Employment by Industry and Outdoor Recreation Compensation by Industry. Read the release here.

“The outdoor industry has always known it is a huge contributor to the national economy, this report brings new data to bear to underscore that fact – to the tune of outdoor recreation’s real GDP growing significantly faster than the U.S. economy,” said Amy Roberts, Executive Director of the Outdoor Industry Association. “The icing on the cake is the new state by state analysis, which will be immensely helpful to lawmakers, communities and businesses in promoting outdoor recreation related activities and economic opportunities – the beneficial uses are endless and we look forward to our continued work with the Bureau of Economic Analysis to enhance the analysis moving forward.”

OIA also highlights that according to the new estimates regarding value added by industry the retail trade and manufacturing sectors of the outdoor recreation economy each account, in 2017, for $95.7 billion of current-dollar value added and $51.7 billionrespectfully.

OIA and our members, with the leadership of Senator Gardner (R-CO), Senator Shaheen (D-NH), Rep. Beyer (D-VA08), Rep. McMorris Rodgers (R-WA05), and Rep. Welch (D-VTAL) and former Rep. Reichert passed the Outdoor REC Act into law. This bill ensured the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) would count the outdoor recreation economy as a part of national gross domestic product (GDP) for the first time ever by creating the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account. The BEA’s statistics support OIA’s own analysis that shows that outdoor recreation contributes $887 billion to the U.S. economy annually and confirms the national importance of investments in recreation funding and infrastructure. 

BEA will continue to refine these numbers over the coming months, any questions or comments about the BEA statistics can be directed to OutdoorRecreation@bea.gov. You can also learn more by referencing both the BEA FAQ on this data and OIA’s FAQ included below, regarding our outdoor recreation economic study.

How is the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) data different from the data in the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) Outdoor Recreation Economy report?
The BEA measures “gross domestic product outputs” on the total value of domestic goods and services produced by an industry. The OIA study measures consumer spending on all gear-, apparel-, footwear- and equipment-related expenses and associated travel for outdoor recreation.

Also, BEA’s analysis does not measure travel expenses or associated recreation spending on close-to-home recreation or on trips that are less than 50 miles from a consumer’s home. In the OIA report, the research shows that more than two-thirds of outdoor recreation trips are within 50 miles of home and these close-to-home trips represent 67 percent of the $887 billion in consumer spending.

How does the $427 billion toward U.S. GDP or over $778 billion toward total U.S. gross output line up with OIA’s $887 billion in consumer spending on outdoor recreation?
The BEA analysis and the OIA Outdoor Recreation Economy report measure different economic contributors. The BEA measures contribution to the U.S. GDP and gross domestic product outputs, while the OIA study measures U.S. consumer spending on all gear-, apparel-, footwear- and equipment-related expenses and associated travel for outdoor recreation.

On a macro scale, U.S. consumer spending is much larger than the U.S. GDP and gross output, demonstrating why the numbers are different and all are relevant. The three data points are companion numbers that validate that outdoor recreation is a growing and critical sector of the U.S. economy.

Also, the BEA analysis only includes the U.S. “value-add” or the wholesale and retail mark-ups applied to imported products, while the OIA figures report consumer spending on the total value of outdoor products.

What is the difference in methodology between the BEA analysis and the OIA Outdoor Recreation Economy report?
The two reports are based on different methodologies. Essentially, the OIA economic report – which is basic economic input-output modeling – starts with the consumer and works down to the manufacturing/imports point. The BEA analysis goes in the opposite direction, starting with manufacturing and imports and works up to the consumer. The BEA approach uses different data sets and methods which account for differences too.

Will OIA continue to reference the numbers from its report or will it adopt the new numbers from the BEA?
Because the reports are based on two different methodologies and measure different aspects of recreation’s economic impacts, both are relevant. We hope that the BEA will receive the needed ongoing funding for this to become an ongoing study that will track outdoor recreation’s contributions beyond direct impact and continue to dive deeper. We will continue to ask Congress to provide that funding. In the interim, we will continue to use both the OIA Outdoor Recreation Economy report and the BEA Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account data, as these companion numbers validate that outdoor recreation is a growing and critical sector of the United States economy and an important part of American communities.