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New Data Project: Measuring the Economic Impact of Outdoor Recreation


We Want to Hear from You

Members of the public, private industry, state and local governments, non-profit organizations, and other interested parties are invited to provide feedback on the development of a new set of statistics that will provide information on economic activity associated with the outdoor recreation segment of the United States economy.

The Federal Recreation Council (FRC) and the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) are collaborating on the new data project. BEA is one of the U.S. government’s premier producers of official economic statistics, and the seven agencies that make up the FRC are prominent stewards of federal public lands and waters for outdoor recreation. Those agencies are the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

About the Project

The new data project, known as the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account (ORSA), will provide a first-of-its-kind look at the outdoor recreation economy. While BEA’s current gross domestic product (GDP) statistics already embed economic activity associated with outdoor recreation, the new satellite account will allow these activities to be separately identified and highlighted in a way not possible with current statistics. Ultimately, creation of the ORSA will provide detailed data that will deepen the public’s understanding of the economic impact of outdoor recreation, inform decision making, and improve governance and long-term management of public lands and waters.

The first major step in this effort is to define the range of activities encompassed by the outdoor recreation economy. In evaluating potential definitions, BEA and FRC will consider public comment as well as input from subject matter experts from the field of outdoor economics. The ORSA research team will initially develop two or three potential definitions ranging in scope from narrow to broad. This is a crucial and challenging task because the range of activities in each definition will determine which industries and detailed goods and services measured by BEA will be classified as in scope, out of scope, or partially in scope for the outdoor recreation economy.

Once these initial definitions have been established, the second major step will be to review the list of partially-in-scope goods and services, and identify data and methodologies by which the in-scope share of these “partial” items can be estimated. Finally, using the information collected in the first two steps, prototype national-level estimates of economic activity will be developed that could include measures of output, value added, compensation of employees, and employment in the outdoor recreation economy. With national-level estimates in place, the account could then be extended to include a regional dimension.

Tentative Timeline for Major Milestones

  • Define outdoor recreation
    • Jan-Mar 2017: Independent development of a range of definitions, and review of goods and services by experts in field of outdoor recreation
    • Apr-Jun 2017: Reconciliation of independent reviews, incorporation of public comments, and consolidation into 2-3 potential definitions
  • Prepare prototype estimates
    • Jul-Nov 2017: Identify data sources and methodologies to estimate partially-in-scope goods and services
    • Dec 2017-Jan 2018: Prepare and release prototype statistics based on the 2-3 potential definitions being evaluated
  • Gather feedback on prototype statistics and finalize the definition, data sources and methodology to be used for the national-level statistics
    • 2018

How to Provide Comments on the Project

Comments and suggestions are welcome. In particular, we are interested in feedback regarding:

  1. which recreation-related activities should be considered as in scope for the ORSA;
  2. the types of statistics that potential users of the ORSA would like to see presented in the account in addition to output, value added, employment, and compensation;
  3. information about datasets that could supplement BEA’s core statistics in estimating shares for partially-in-scope goods and services; and
  4. information on datasets that could be used for possible future regionalization of the account.

All comments must be submitted no later than May 26, 2017, and should be submitted directly to BEA through the following email address:

Finance and Insurance Led Growth in the Fourth Quarter

Finance and insurance; retail trade; and professional, scientific, and technical services were the leading contributors to the increase in U.S. economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2016. Overall, 19 of 22 industry groups contributed to the 2.1 percent increase in real GDP in the fourth quarter.

GDP By industry April 21 2017

  • Finance and insurance increased 6.3 percent in the fourth quarter, after increasing 9.0 percent in the third quarter.
  • Retail trade increased 5.7 percent, after increasing 2.6 percent.
  • Professional, scientific, and technical services increased 3.6 percent, after increasing 2.6 percent.

Real Value Added by Industry April 21 2017

For more information, read the full report.

New Data Showcase Economic Impact of Arts and Culture in U.S. and States

Sure, Broadway and Hollywood employ lots of creative people. But when it comes to artistic and cultural work, not all the action is on the coasts. New data show arts and culture account for a larger share of jobs in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado than they do nationally.

For the first time, the Bureau of Economic Analysis has produced statistics spotlighting the economic impact of arts and cultural activities in each state and the District of Columbia.

These state-level employment and compensation estimates add local detail to the more expansive national data in the Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account, a set of experimental statistics first released in 2013. The state data cover the years 2001-2014. National data have been updated with estimates for 2014.

Arts and cultural economic activity accounted for 4.2 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, or $729.6 billion, in 2014. Arts and culture, including supporting industries, accounted for 4.8 million wage and salary jobs across the nation.

One way to see the states where these jobs have a relatively larger presence is by using BEA’s employment location quotients. These measurements compare the share of arts and cultural jobs within a state’s total employment with the share of arts and cultural jobs nationally.lq-state-employment-map-blog

For example, Wyoming’s location quotient is 1.30, meaning its share of arts and cultural employment relative to other jobs in the state was 30 percent above the national average, and ranks second-highest among the states. Many of these jobs fall into the “government” category, including arts- and culture-related work within American Indian tribal councils and Wyoming’s expansive parklands. Other Western states, including Utah and Colorado, show a similar pattern.

Washington state’s employment was boosted by retail work in online sales of arts- and culture-related books and merchandise.

As expected, motion pictures starred in California’s arts and culture employment. Government, retail and media jobs figured strongly in New York, in addition to the performing arts.

The District of Columbia was also measured, and it had the highest location quotient – 2.51. That reflects the high number of government employees in the federal city, many with work related to arts and culture, such as at Smithsonian museums, the Kennedy Center and national monuments.

The states with the highest concentration of arts and cultural jobs, with their location quotients: New York (1.47), Wyoming (1.30), Washington (1.28), California and Utah (both 1.17), Rhode Island and Colorado (1.13), Alaska (1.11), Massachusetts and Oregon (both 1.09).


You can find handy one-page highlights for each state, or access more detailed state and national data, on See BEA’s news release for more information about the arts and cultural account.

The account offers statistics for “core” arts and cultural activities and for their “supporting” industries.

The core industries are originators of ideas and content associated with arts and culture, such as performers, writers, artists and designers; museums, historical sites and nature parks; and managers, agents and promoters.

The supporting industries produce and disseminate arts and cultural commodities. They include broadcasters, art galleries, grant-makers, and governments of all levels. In some cases, such as companies making musical instruments, most of their workers fall under this account. But for many supporting industries – such as retail, construction and printing – the jobs in the arts and cultural account represent a small percentage of the industry’s total employees.

An example: Dancers are core arts employees. Workers who make ballet slippers, build theaters or print programs are in supporting industries.

Satellite accounts are built by painstakingly identifying data spread throughout BEA’s existing national economic accounts, and also weighing outside information that may shed more light on the subject. These accounts don’t change official U.S. statistics, such as gross domestic product. But they do produce more in-depth analysis of their subjects, which is valuable to businesses, analysts, policymakers and other Americans.

Deciding what to include and what to exclude can be an art in itself. BEA’s definition of arts and cultural economic activity is largely consistent with those of the United Nations and the European Union. Unlike some of our international counterparts, BEA excludes sports.

BEA continues to seek more detailed data for its satellite accounts and to refine their methodology. Comments and suggestions are welcome at

This satellite account was created with the support of funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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