In April, the Outdoor Industry Association predicted that outdoor recreation in the United States is worth $887 billion and responsible for 7.6 million American jobs. On Wednesday, the trade group released individual reports that break down those numbers by state, with some surprising revelations.
Each state report reveals the impact of outdoor recreation on consumer spending, state and local tax revenue, and employment. This updates data released in 2012 and now includes 70 percent survey data, conducted by Southwick Associates, a market research, statistics, and economics firm. The 2017 reports also factor in more types of activities, like mountaineering and surfing. One big takeaway is that outdoor spending is on the rise throughout the country. And the industry’s influence is also on the rise—in Texas, for example, more direct jobs depend on outdoor recreation (411,000) than on the oil and gas industry (212,000).
“This latest study reiterates what an important economic driver the outdoor industry is for every state in our nation,” says Matt Powell, sports industry analyst at the NPD Group. “State and local governments should be working to leverage this important revenue growth vehicle.”
Here’s what we learned from the data.
The Top Spenders May Surprise You
Surprisingly, none of the states with a government office dedicated solely to outdoor recreation, like Colorado, were among the top five. Instead, population plays a huge role in establishing a state’s overall contribution to the outdoor economy.
- California generates $92 billion in annual consumer spending and $6.2 billion in state and local tax revenue.
- Florida generates $58.6 billion in annual consumer spending and $3.5 billion in state and local tax revenue.
- Texas generates $52.6 billion in annual consumer spending and $3.5 billion in state and local tax revenue.
- New York generates $41.8 billion in annual consumer spending and $3.6 billion in state and local tax revenue.
- Pennsylvania generates $29.1 billion in annual consumer spending and $1.9 billion in state and local tax revenue.
Adventure Hubs Employ the Most People
If you look at how many people are employed by the outdoor industry in each state, proportional to its overall population, the list gets a little less predictable. Densely populated states tend not to fare as well here, while the states that come out on top are those known for their outdoorsy draw. Still, count us surprised that New Hampshire made it into the top five while Colorado came in only at number 14.
- In Alaska, 9.7 percent of the population works in the outdoor industry.
- In Wyoming, 8.5 percent of the population works in the outdoor industry.
- In Vermont, 8.2 percent of the population works in the outdoor industry.
- In Montana, 6.8 percent of the population works in the outdoor industry.
- In New Hampshire, 5.9 percent of the population works in the outdoor industry.
All the Recreationists Are in the West, with One Exception
More than 50 percent of most states’ population considers themselves an outdoor recreationist. That percentage is highest in Alaska and Montana (both 81 percent) and lowest in New Jersey (the only state to dip below 50 percent, at 46 percent). Other top contenders:
- Alaska and Montana: 81 percent
- Idaho: 79 percent
- North Dakota: 76 percent
- Wyoming: 73 percent
- Utah, Vermont, and Washington: 70 percent
You can view each state’s entire report online. Thanks to the Outdoor REC Act, which passed last December, the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis will release confirmed numbers on the outdoor industry’s overall impact on the U.S. economy in 2018.
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