January 01, 2015

Industry Highlight: Recreational Services Index

The recreational services industry is made up of occupations from two larger sectors – arts, entertainment, and recreation on one side and accommodations and food services on the other. Recreational services added 41,200 seasonally adjusted jobs from January 2014 to November 2014. Holiday travel tends to cause a spike in employment at the end of the year, so we expect December figures to reveal a steep rise for the industry.

DCR TrendLine Recreational Services Employment Index

DCR TrendLine Recreational Services Employment Index

The amusement, gambling, and recreation industries subsector is defined by the North American Industry Classification System as one which 1) operates facilities where visitors can engage in sports, recreation, amusement, or gambling activities and/or 2) provides other amusement and recreation services, such as operating sports teams, clubs, or leagues engaged in playing games for recreational purposes.

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Services (BLS) predictions, employment in the amusement, gambling, and recreation industry is expected to increase by 5.2 percent by 2022.

Volume of Amusement, Gambling, and Recreation Establishments

Volume of Amusement, Gambling, and Recreation Establishments

Source: BLS

Occupational Profile of Recreation Workers

According to BLS’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, recreation workers design and lead leisure activities for groups in volunteer agencies or recreation facilities, such as playgrounds, parks, camps, aquatic centers, and senior centers.

In 2012, recreation workers held about 345,400 jobs in the United States. About half of the workers are employed in full-time positions, but a large percentage work weekends or irregular hours or may be seasonally employed.

Recreation workers who work full-time typically require a bachelor’s degree. In 2012, the Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism, and Related Professions, a branch of the National Recreation and Park Association, accredited 81 bachelor’s degree programs in recreation or leisure studies. Programs include courses in management, human development, community organization, and administration. Students can specialize in areas such as park management, outdoor recreation, industrial or commercial recreation, and camp management.

The mean annual wage for recreation workers was $22,240 in May 2012. The top 10 percent earned more than $38,750. The highest wages were found in nursing and residential care facilities, social assistance, and local governments.

The states with the highest employment for recreation workers are California, New York, Florida, Illinois, and Texas. Meanwhile, top paying states include District of Columbia, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, and Vermont.

Employment of Recreation Workers, by State (May 2013)

Employment of Recreation Workers, by State (May 2013).png

Source: BLS


Due to growing rates of childhood obesity, many federal, state, and local campaigns have been established to encourage young people to be more physically active. This increased emphasis on exercise is expected to lead to a demand for recreational services workers in fitness centers, sports centers, and camps that specialize in younger participants. Employment is expected to grow 14 percent from 2012 to 2022. Job prospects are expected to be best for those seeking part-time, seasonal, or temporary recreation jobs

Benefits of Parks and Recreation

The National Recreation and Park Association (NARP) summarizes key categories in which parks and recreations contribute to communities. Nationwide, there are more than 12,000 local park and recreation departments that manage over 105,000 public parks. About one-third of the public believes that too little is spent on parks and recreation.

Physical Health: More than one-third of adults in the United States are clinically obese and one-third of American children are overweight. Increased physical activity is an important part of solving this issue. Parks provide a venue for activities such as organized sports, running, biking, gardening, hiking, and swimming. According to the NARP, multiple studies show that time outdoors is the strongest correlate of children’s physical activity.

Mental Health: The NAPR asserts that the presence of neighborhood parks promotes psychological well-being.  Time spent in green environments has been proven in studies to reduce sadness and depression.

Youth Development: Studies show that community violence occurs less frequently among youth who live in neighborhoods with youth-serving organizations. Students who participate in at least one hour of extracurricular activities per week are 49 percent less likely to use drugs and 37 percent less likely to become teen parents.

Environment: Scientists have confirmed that urban parks serve an important role in improving air quality which affects 127 million people in the United States who suffer from respiratory and cardiovascular disease, decreased lung function, and increases in cancer rates. Urban trees in the lower 48 states are estimated to remove 783,000 tons of pollution per year, with an estimated annual value to society of $5.6 billion.