Outdoor Recreation Towers Over Oil and Gas in Colorado Economy

Outdoor Recreation Towers Over Oil and Gas in Colorado Economy

Jock Gilchrist, Research Fellow

Our current economic system is not serving us well. It has contributed to the degradation of the biosphere and distributed wealth unevenly. Part of the reason we remain locked into this dysfunctional system is because we hear the same old economic stories over and over.

We are here to tell a new story – one that is both fact-based and hope-inducing. Contrary to what we’ve been told, it is possible to solve climate change while improving economic conditions for all. In fact, this economic transformation is already well underway – we just don’t hear about it.

To fix that problem, we’re introducing a series of five blog posts to highlight recent economic statistics that Ski equipmenthighlight the inaccuracy of the old narrative, and tell a new one. We’ll be focusing on our own backyard – Colorado – but the stories contain themes found throughout the world.

In Colorado, we often hear that the state depends on the oil, gas, and mining industries to provide jobs and wealth to our state.

What we don’t hear is that the Outdoor Recreation Industry directly creates four times as many jobs as oil, gas, and mining combined (229,000 to 58,000)[1]. We also don’t hear that Outdoor Recreation supports 511,000 total jobs[2] in Colorado – equal to 18.7% of the state’s labor force. Outdoor Recreation was responsible for over 10% of Colorado’s GDP in 2017.[3]

Compare this to the 89,000 total jobs supported by oil and gas (3% of the labor force), and its 4% contribution to GDP.[4] This means that in total, Outdoor Recreation supports almost six times as many Colorado jobs and contributes over two and a half times as much revenue to state GDP.

While the livelihoods provided and families supported by oil and gas jobs matter, they’re a smaller portion of the state’s economic activity than the industry portrays.

The trend is true nationally as well. From OIA report (below).

And most importantly, Outdoor Recreation is a sector that embodies the new economic paradigm. Outdoor recreation improves physical and psychological health. It deepens appreciation for Colorado’s stunning beauty. And it is economically profitable.

Stay tuned for four more posts just like this that highlight surprising statistics about Colorado’s economy. Please share this post with your networks to help us spread the story of the new economy.


[1] https://outdoorindustry.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/OIA_RecEconomy_FINAL_Single.pdf

[2] Total jobs includes direct, indirect, and induced employment.

[3] https://cpw.state.co.us/Documents/Trails/SCORP/2017EconomicContributions_SCORP.pdf

[4] https://www.coga.org/uploads/1/2/2/4/122414962/coga_economic_fiscal_impacts_-_final.pdf


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