Economy: The Coast – Our Nation's Economic Engine

In 2011, 45 percent of our nation's gross domestic product, or GDP, was generated in the Coastal Shoreline Counties along the oceans and Great Lakes. Given the concentration of economic production, population, and infrastructure along the coast, we must work to maintain the integrity of those natural resources that make these areas highly-desirable to visit, live, and work.

$6.6 trillion

Contribution to GDP from Coastal Shoreline Counties, just under half of U.S. GDP in 2011.

Source: NOAA estimates of BEA GDP, 2012

51 million

Total number of jobs in Coastal Shoreline Counties of the U.S. in 2011.

Source: BLS, 2012

$2.8 trillion

Wages paid out to employees working at establishments in Coastal Shoreline Counties in 2011.

Source: BLS, 2012


Global GDP rank in 2011 (behind the U.S. and China) of the Coastal Shoreline Counties, if considered an individual country.

Source: BLS, 2012; World Bank, 2012

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Source: BLS, 2011; NOAA estimates of BEA GDP, 2011; BEA, 2011; Government Development Bank of Puerto Rico, 2010

About this Topic

This topic presents data on gross domestic product (GDP), employment, and wages for the combined Coastal Shoreline Counties of the nation and each state for the years 1990 through 2011. These data show that GDP of this coastal area of the U.S. in 2011 was 6.6 trillion dollars, and accounted for just under half of the U.S. GDP. Employment in the Coastal Shoreline Counties rose from about 42.6 million people in 1990 to about 51 million people in 2011. Wages grew from 1.1 trillion to 2.8 trillion dollars (not accounting for inflation). In 2011 California ranked first in Coastal Shoreline County GDP (1.5 trillion dollars), first in employment (10.6 million people), and first in wages (624 billion dollars). There are three Case Studies for this topic: The Ocean Economy – Dependent on a Healthy Coastal Ecosystem, Non-Market Value of the Coast – Benefits Regularly Taken for Granted, and A Closed Beach Affects Local Economies.

Closer Look

Relevant Links

NOAA's Spatial trends in Coastal Socioeconomics (STICS)

NOAA's Economics: National Ocean Watch (ENOW)

National Ocean Economics Program