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Outdoor Recreation Added Nearly $14 Billion to PA’s Economy in 2021

by Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR)

Outdoor Recreation Added Nearly $14 Billion to PA’s Economy in 2021

Sector supported 152,000 full-time jobs during the same period

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Thursday announced that outdoor recreation contributed $13.64 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy, accounting for 152,000 jobs, and 1.6 percent of the commonwealth’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) statistics.

“This latest round of economic data proves again that the excellence of Pennsylvania’s outdoor recreation is the product of our remarkable landscapes and strong partnerships,” Pennsylvania Director of Outdoor Recreation Nathan Reigner said. “Outdoor recreation continues to be a thriving and significant industry within the commonwealth and this data helps us better understand what we are doing well, while also providing guidance on where we can grow this industry for its own sake and to improve the lives of Pennsylvanians. Unlike economic development through other industries, development through outdoor recreation also stimulates physical health, mental wellbeing, social cohesion, and environmental sustainability.”

The $13.6 billion outdoor recreation added to the commonwealth’s GDP is up 22% from 2020 and the increase of 2,000 full-time equivalent jobs is up 4% from 2020. Pennsylvania has the sixth largest outdoor recreation economy in the nation, supported by a combination of exceptional recreational assets, generally diversified economy, and strong retail, manufacturing, and tourism sectors.

Among core outdoor activities, recreational vehicle (RV) camping makes up the greatest single contribution to Pennsylvania’s outdoor economy, exceeding $700 million in value added in 2021, up 17% over the previous year. RVing is followed by substantial economic contributions from boating and fishing ($555 million); hunting, shooting, and trapping ($354 million); and ATV and motorcycle riding ($304 million). These and other recreational activities are spurring economic productivity in supporting industries as well, including nearly $4 billion of travel and tourism activity from and more than $1 billion from local recreational trips made by Pennsylvanians. Nationally, outdoor recreation generates $862 billion in economic output, accounting for approximately 3% of all jobs in America.

“The BEA data underscores how important it is to invest in public lands, waters and infrastructure for all types of recreation in Pennsylvania,” said Jessica Turner, president of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR). “From the creation of jobs and increased profit for small businesses in local economies, to larger boons to the state’s economy, this sector is a consistent driver, even in times of economic uncertainty. The strength of the outdoor recreation economy reflects what many in the industry have long known to be true: there are infinite benefits that come from more people spending time outdoors, and they’ll only grow with continued investment.”

Reigner noted that recreation activities are diversifying, with new users inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic and empowered by new recreation technologies from advanced gear to more readily available information. Additionally, the advent of remote work has made possible recreation-based lifestyles that attract remote workers to become new residents in communities with abundant and accessible recreational opportunities. He added that Pennsylvania’s Office of Outdoor Recreation, created by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, will work to grow the state’s outdoor economy though collaboration with other government agencies, businesses, communities, economic developers, user groups, and recreation resource managers.

“Pennsylvania’s outdoor recreation economy is large, diverse, and not well connected to either state government or the economic development community,” Reigner said. “It is our job in the Office of Outdoor Recreation to be a partner for Pennsylvania’s outdoor economy, to understand its needs and help it prosper so it can deliver the benefits of good health, vibrant communities, conserved and connected natural resources, and entrepreneurship opportunities.”

Though Pennsylvania’s total compensation for outdoor recreation work ranks seventh among all states, its rate of compensation growth is 38th among all states. Reigner noted this as an area where Pennsylvania can make progress, pointing to outdoor recreation workers making about 57% the wages of the average Pennsylvania worker, $44,623 in 2021, compared with $77,884 for all salaried jobs in the state.

Reigner will convene a webinar to discuss the BEA statistics in detail and further engage with stakeholders at 11:00 AM, Tuesday, November 29. Register for the webinar here.

Visit DCNR’s website for more information on outdoor recreation in Pennsylvania.