Outdoor recreation's economic impact continues to grow


The impact of outdoor recreation on the national economy expanded  again last year, showing that the industry is big business.

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis released a report this month that found the outdoor recreation economy produced 2.2% of the country's gross domestic product in 2022, valued at $563.7 billion. For the first time, the industry's total economic output — measured primarily through sales or receipts — topped $1 trillion.

In Washington, outdoor businesses earned $20 billion last year, according to the data. That was the sixth-highest total. California led the way with more than $73 billion. Idaho's total was about $3.4 billion.

Employment in outdoor recreation is also growing. Nationwide, it rose by about 7.4%, to nearly 5 million jobs. Washington saw an increase of 6.2%, reaching  more than 120,000 jobs. Idaho's employment number bumped by 6.6%, to a little more than 35,000 jobs.

The data, which has been compiled annually since 2017, shows the outdoor sector is doing well. Kent Ebersole, president of the Outdoor Industry Association, said in a news release that it's no surprise.

"This new data demonstrates the strength of the outdoor recreation industry and our collective power to drive sustainable economic growth while protecting — and growing access to — the benefits of the outdoors for everyone," Ebersole said.

The organization said participation in outdoor activities also grew in 2022, to 168.1 million people nationwide.

The BEA report analyzed the economic impacts of a wide variety of outdoor activities, including conventional recreation like hiking or hunting alongside things like outdoor festivals and sporting events. It also takes into account activities that support the outdoor industry, such as construction, travel and government expenditures.

Conventional outdoor recreation produced the largest share of the industry's value, with 34.2% nationwide. Within that subset, RVing topped other activities, raking in $35.5 billion. Boating and fishing was second at $32.4 billion.

Hunting, shooting and trapping contributed a little more than $10.5 billion nationwide, while snow sports like skiing and snowmobiling added about $7 billion.

In Washington, conventional outdoor recreation activities created about $8.4 billion in economic value. Boating and fishing created about $1.3 billion in economic value. RVing accounted for about $960 million, and snow activities brought in about $367 million.

The report arrived about a month after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its 2022 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation. That report found that people spent close to $400 million nationwide on fishing, hunting and wildlife watching.