Wisconsin’s $8.7 billion outdoor recreation industry sees record year

Annual data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis show Wisconsin’s outdoor recreation industry contributed a record-setting $8.7 billion to the state’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021. Additionally, Wisconsin’s outdoor economy grew by 14.1% — more than three times faster than the state’s overall economy, which grew by 4.6%, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

Key findings of the report show Wisconsin’s outdoor recreation industry supported nearly 90,000 jobs across various sectors in 2021, with a growth rate of 9.7% compared to 2.4% for all jobs. Manufacturing jobs accounted for 10% of all outdoor recreation jobs in each of the last two years, ranking Wisconsin fourth in the country. Despite supply chain issues during the pandemic, manufacturing jobs continued to grow from 2019 to 2021, increasing by 11%.

The data also show travel and tourism, as well as local trips, account for nearly $2.8 billion of outdoor recreation’s contributions to Wisconsin’s GDP. In 2020, Wisconsin was one of only seven states to see an increase in economic impact from local outdoor recreation-related trips. In 2021, the economic impact of local trips grew even more, increasing by 7.2% to $771 million.

In Wisconsin, fishing was one of the categories that grew in 2020 and again in 2021. According to the new data, the top categories within outdoor recreation’s contributions to Wisconsin’s GDP were:

  • Multiuse apparel and accessories: $961 million;
  • Motorcycling and ATVing: $882 million, No. 1 nationally;
  • Boating and fishing: $602 million; and
  • Bicycling: $451 million, No. 2 nationally.

Nationally, the outdoor recreation economy accounted for 1.9% and $454 billion of GDP and grew 18.9% compared to 5.9% for the overall U.S. economy. The top three categories were boating and fishing, RV traveling, and hunting, shooting, and trapping.