NOAA report: U.S. Ocean Economic Sectors Growing Twice as Fast as Overall Economy

Tourism and recreation leads other sectors in jobs and economic output.

surfer heading out on board to surf

Tourism and recreation was the top employer in the ocean economy with 2.3 million employees. This sector also contributed $116 billion in gross domestic product, the highest of all the ocean and Great Lakes economy sectors. The tourism and recreation sector surpasses offshore mineral extraction, the previous top contributor to the ocean and Great Lakes economy. Image credit: pexels.com

The nation’s ocean and Great Lakes continue to fuel economic growth across the U.S. The latest economic figures in NOAA’s report on the U.S. Ocean and Great Lakes Economy show gross domestic product (GDP) from the ocean economy grew 5.7 percent between 2014 and 2015, more than twice as fast as the U.S. economy as a whole, which grew by 2.7 percent.

 

Tourism and recreation was the top employer with 2.3 million employees. This sector also contributed $116 billion in GDP, the highest of all the ocean and Great Lakes economy sectors. The tourism and recreation sector surpasses offshore mineral extraction, the previous top contributor to the ocean and Great Lakes economy.

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

The analysis completed for this report says the ocean economy sectors created 97,000 new jobs, growing by 3.2 percent during the reporting period as compared to overall U.S. economic growth of 2.1 percent. In 2015 alone, the ocean and Great Lakes supported:

  • 152,000 business establishments
  • 3.2 million employees
  • $128 billion in total wages
  • $320 billion in gross domestic product

The report also provides top-level economic information about coastal states, as shown by the examples below.  

  • California and Florida are major contributors for the tourism and recreation sector. Combined, these states account for more than one-third of the sector’s total employment and GDP.
  • Virginia contributed the most to employment for ship and boat building, accounting for 23 percent.
  • Washington was the largest contributor to GDP for ship and boat building, accounting for 20.7 percent.
  • Texas is home to the national center for oil and gas industry. Harris County, Texas alone accounted for 66 percent of employment for the offshore mineral extraction sector and 80 percent of its GDP.

  The report uses data from 2005–2015, derived from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.