Our Blue Economy

The U.S. Economy Relies on Ocean, Coastal, and Great Lakes Resources

The strength of the United States economy is a topic of frequent discussion. Today, I’d like to highlight the value of of a particular segment of the U.S. economy. The ocean economy includes businesses dependent on ocean and Great Lakes natural resources. A study released earlier this year demonstrates that this essential segment of the U.S. economy employs more than three million people—more than crop production, telecommunication and building construction combined—with more than two thirds of those employees in the tourism and recreation sector.

The ocean and Great Lakes economy is comprised of six job sectors dependent on natural resources:  marine construction, marine transportation, offshore mineral extraction, ship and boat building, and tourism and recreation.

In 2014, the most recent year of available data, we learned that these sectors created 75,000 new jobs, growing by 2.5 percent during the reporting period as compared to overall U.S. economic growth of 2.0 percent.

 In 2014 alone, the ocean and Great Lakes supported:

  • 149,000 business establishments
  • 3.1 million employees
  • $123 billion in total wages
  • $352 billion in gross domestic product

Another study released earlier this year focused specifically on the businesses supporting ocean measurement, observation, and forecasting. These include providers of infrastructure such as sensors, instruments, and platforms as well as intermediaries that use ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes measurements to develop value-added products. That sector of the economy alone accounts for $7 billion in revenue annually.



W. Russell Callender, Ph.D. 
Assistant Administrator for Ocean Services and Coastal
Zone Management, National Ocean Service