Montana’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Grew 14% in 2022

In a report released last week, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) confirmed that Montana’s outdoor recreation industry continues to play a significant role in the state’s economy. According to the 2022 report detailing the industry’s economic impact, outdoor recreation contributed to 4.3% of Montana’s gross domestic product (GDP) last year. While this represents a slight decrease of 0.1% from 2021, it still ranks as the second-highest percentage among states, with Hawaii leading at 5.6%.

Montana also stands out for having one of the highest percentages of its workforce employed in the outdoor recreation industry, with 5.6% of workers, equivalent to 29,453 jobs. Hawaii tops this category again with 6.8% of its workforce engaged in the sector, followed by Alaska with 5.9%. Montana shares the fourth position with Wyoming. The state saw an increase of 1,869 outdoor recreation jobs in 2022.

The 2022 BEA report signals a complete recovery from the peak of the multi-year COVID-19 pandemic, with the outdoor recreation industry surpassing its 2019 contribution to the national GDP for the first time. The U.S. Census Bureau identifies outdoor recreation as the second most impacted industry nationwide, trailing only the food and accommodations sector.

Nationally, the outdoor recreation industry contributed $469 billion to the GDP in 2022, exceeding the 2019 figure by $1 billion. This represents a growth rate of 4.8% from 2021, triple the pace of the overall U.S. GDP growth. The BEA’s calculations indicate that the total economic output of outdoor recreation has now surpassed several major industries, including mining, utilities, farming and ranching, and chemical products manufacturing. Moreover, the report highlights that 3.2% of all U.S. employees are engaged in outdoor recreation.

Montana had already surpassed its pre-pandemic peak in 2021, driven by increased recreational visitation that year. The 2022 report reveals a 14% increase in the state’s $2.9 billion outdoor industry compared to 2021.

The BEA’s impact study on the outdoor recreation industry, initiated by the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2016, reflects the sector’s resilience and growth. Kent Ebersole, president of the Outdoor Industry Association, commented on the data, emphasizing the industry’s strength and its role in driving sustainable economic growth while expanding access to outdoor benefits for all. The Outdoor Industry Association, a nonprofit promoting outdoor access in the U.S., reported that the number of outdoor participants reached a record 168.1 million in 2022, marking the eighth consecutive year of growth.

By: Montana Newsroom staff