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Useful Stats: Top industries by contribution to county GDP, 2019

February 04, 2021
By: Colin Edwards

This week’s edition of Useful Stats examines the contributions to county-level GDP in 2019 by industry group. Specifically, this analysis identifies the industries that contributed the most to the economic output of each county in 2019, finding that the real estate and rental and leasing; manufacturing; and government and government enterprises industry groups were vital economic drivers in terms of both their contributions to national GDP as well as the number of counties where they were the top contributor.

The analysis also shows that the finance and insurance industry group and the professional, scientific, and technical services industry group were each top contributors to national GDP but were the top industry in relatively few counties, while the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industry group and the mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industry group were both ranked relatively low nationally but were top contributors to GDP in a significant number of counties.

In 2019, the real estate and rental and leasing industry group was the greatest contributor to national GDP ($2.9 trillion); followed by government and government enterprises ($2.5 trillion); manufacturing ($2.3 trillion); finance and insurance ($1.7 trillion); and professional, scientific, and technical services ($1.6 trillion).

However, these top industries nationally were not consistently the top contributors to GDP in the greatest number of counties. The real estate and rental and leasing industry group remained the top contributor to GDP in the greatest number of counties (951 counties); manufacturing (875 counties) moved into second place; and, government and government enterprises (593 counties) slipped into third. The finance and insurance industry group and the professional, scientific, and technical services industry group both drop from the top five in terms of the number of counties where the industry is the top contributor and are replaced by agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (193 counties); and mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction (185 counties).

As seen in the map below, which shows each county shaded according to the top industry contributor to its GDP, counties where the real estate and rental and leasing industry was the lead contributor are highly concentrated along the West Coast in California, Oregon and Washington, southern Florida, and New England. However, as the leading industry group nationally, real estate and rental and leasing is widely represented throughout the nation, with a visibly significant impact in nearly every state.

The map also shows that manufacturing is represented as the top contributor in at least one county in most states, but is concentrated mostly in the eastern half of the contiguous states — most noticeably in the Great Lakes areas of Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin and throughout the South.

Counties where the government and government enterprises industry group was the top contributor to county GDP are most concentrated in the western half of the country — primarily in New Mexico, Arizona, and Wyoming.

Despite being the lowest contributor to national GDP, the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industry group was the top contributor to the third most number of counties. Although many states have counties where this industry group was the top contributor to GDP, these areas are strongly concentrated in the Great Plains region.

The mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industry group is also of interest as it is associated with many of the areas that saw high levels of GDP per capita and annual changes in GDP, as examined in previous SSTI analysis.

Click here for the Excel workbook used in SSTI’s analysis.

useful stats, gdp