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Federal agency shows growing NM outdoor industry

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The outdoor recreation industry in New Mexico generated about $2.4 billion in 2019, 2.2% of the state’s gross domestic product, according to a federal agency.

The report of the Bureau of Economic Analysis, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, also indicates that 35,065 people in New Mexico were employed in this sector last year, receiving $1.2 billion in total income.

At the national level, the data shows that the outdoor recreation economy accounted for 2.1% of U.S. gross domestic product, or $459.8 billion.

The size of the outdoor recreation industry by state ranged from a high of 5.8% of state gross domestic product in Hawaii to 1.3% in Connecticut. The District of Columbia’s rate was 1.1%.

Here are a few highlights from data about New Mexico, according to the state Economic Development Department.

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• New Mexico’s outdoor recreation economy is growing faster than the country’s outdoor recreation economy. The state growth is 5.9% since 2018, compared to the 3.7% national growth rate.

• Since 2018, the number of outdoor recreation jobs in New Mexico has grown by 5.3%, compared with an increase of 0.4% for the nation.

• Since 2018, outdoor recreation income has grown 7.6% in New Mexico, compared with an increase of 3.9% for the U.S.

• In 2019, recreational vehicle trips, equestrian activities and snow sports were the top three contributors to the New Mexican outdoor recreation economy, followed closely by boating and fishing.

“We know the outdoor economy is a powerhouse in New Mexico, employing over 35,000 people annually,” Outdoor Recreation Division Director Axie Navas said. “But there is much more work to be done. The COVID-19 health crisis has hurt many of our businesses in this space, a fact not captured in this new tranche of data. It’s our job to aid in the recovery of the outdoor industry, so it continues to be a vibrant economic engine in the state.”

Earlier this year, the state Outdoor Recreation Division issued a survey to 128 outdoor recreation businesses in New Mexico. Over 90% of respondents stated they had either lost revenue due to the coronavirus crisis, had been unable to cover basic expenses or both. Almost 78% of respondents were small, local companies with fewer than 15 employees.