Hawaii, Montana, Maine economies rely most on outdoor recreation, R.I. in middle of pack

Families and tourists enjoy some beach time on Block Island. / PBN FILE PHOTO/K. CURTIS
RHODE ISLAND's outdoor recreation industry accounted for 2.3% of the state's economic output, tied for No. 23 among the states with Arkansas and North Dakota. A scene from Block Island. / PBN FILE PHOTO/K. CURTIS

WASHINGTON – Hawaii, Montana and Maine are the three states whose economies depend most on outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, water sports, hunting and skiing.

The outdoor recreational industry accounted for 5.4% of Hawaii’s gross domestic product in 2017, the largest share of all U.S. states. The Aloha State was followed by Montana and Maine, where recreation contributed 5.1% and 4.8% to their states’ economies, respectively. The industry added $427 billion, or 2.2%, to the nation’s GDP, according to a Commerce Department report Friday.

Vermont, Wyoming, Florida and Alaska also showed a higher relative dependence on outdoor recreation, making up more than 4% of their respective state GDP. Connecticut, Ohio and New York are least dependent on the sector.

Rhode Island was tied for No. 23 in terms of the percentage of total GDP was contributed by outdoor recreation with Arkansas and North Dakota, at 2.3%.

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Percentage of state GDP contributed by outdoor recreation in New England:

  • Rhode Island – $1.4 billion in value added, 2.3% of state GDP
  • Maine – $3 billion, 4.8%
  • Vermont – $1.5 billion, 4.5%
  • New Hampshire – $2.7 billion, 3.3%
  • Massachusetts – $9.2 billion, 1.7%
  • Connecticut – $3.6 billion, 1.4%

The outdoor recreation industry employed 21,642 in the Ocean State, 4.3% of its total employment. As a point of comparison, 3.4% of all employment in the United States was in the outdoor recreation sector.

Outdoor recreation employment for New England states:

  • Rhode Island – 21,642, 4.3% of total state employment
  • Maine – 40,720, 6.4%
  • New Hampshire – 37,818, 5.5%
  • Vermont – 17,301, 5.3%
  • Massachusetts – 111,609, 3%
  • Connecticut – 48,390, 2.8%

Real gross output, labor compensation and employment all grew more in outdoor recreation than the economy as a whole. The industry expanded by an inflation-adjusted 3.9% in 2017, the most recent data available, faster than the broader economy’s 2.4% growth.

Boating and fishing added $20.9 billion to the national economy during the year, led by Florida and California. RVing was the second-largest activity, with $16.9 billion in value added, paced by Indiana and Ohio.

William Edwards is a Bloomberg News staff writer. PBN contributed to this report.

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