The analysis shows the importance of the outdoor recreation economy of the Mountain West

According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Research, the outdoor recreation industry is huge, contributing about $454 billion to the U.S. GDP. The nonpartisan research group Headwaters Economics recently unwrapped That federal data, and analysis shows where that impact is particularly pronounced in the West.

The roughly half-a-trillion dollar figure is from 2021, the most recent full-year data available. Outdoor recreation represents nearly 2% of the U.S. economy — more than twice that of car manufacturing — and accounts for about 4.5 million jobs.

The impact was significantly greater in many western states. In Montana and Wyoming, recreation accounted for 4.4% and 3.6% of the state’s economy, respectively. Idaho, Utah and Colorado also had figures above the nation as a whole. But like many sectors of the economy, pandemic shutdowns are hitting entertainment hard.

„I think the economy, at least the outdoor recreation economy, has really recovered from that,” said Headwaters economist Megan Lawson, who wrote the analysis.

The analysis shows that the sector’s economic impact rose by more than 20% from 2020 to 2021, and employment increased by around 13%.

„The outdoor recreation economy is huge and growing,” Lawson said. „And an important part of the outdoor recreation economic story is that it’s not just about tourism, it’s not just about hospitality industries, it’s not just about retail. Outdoor recreation supports many different sectors of our economy — it supports manufacturing and warehousing and wholesale, real estate, health care, (and) construction. Supports.

He also noted that there is evidence that the cabin fever-induced surge in interest in outdoor recreation seen at the beginning of the pandemic does not appear to be waning.

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„The number of people coming out, the number of trips people are taking, etc… will be similar to the number of early infections,” he said. „So I agree that there is something in the reset. People are rediscovering or rediscovering for the first time the mental health, physical health benefits of being outdoors.”

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau in cooperation with Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KNR in Nevada, O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KUNC in Colorado. KUNM in New Mexico, supported by subsidiary stations throughout the region. Funding is provided in part to the Mountain West News Bureau Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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