Contribution of Transportation to the Economy:

Contribution of Transportation Services to the Economy and the Transportation Satellite Accounts

This page discusses transportation's direct contribution to the economy; specifically, the contribution of transportation services to gross domestic product (GDP)—a measure of economic activity. GDP attributed to the demand for transportation relative to other goods and services is an alternative measure of transportation's direct contribution to the economy.

2021 Year-in-Review
  • In 2021, transportation (for-hire, in-house, and household) contributed $1.3 trillion (5.6%) to an enhanced U.S. GDP of $23.7 trillion—as measured by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics' (BTS) Transportation Satellite Accounts (TSAs).
  • Household transportation, measured by the depreciation cost associated with households owning motor vehicles, contributed the largest amount, at $411.5 billion.
  • Trucking (for-hire and in-house) contributed $389.3 billion—the second largest contribution to GDP.

Contribution of All Transportation Services | For-Hire Transportation | In-house and Household Transportation
Contribution of Transportation Services to the Economy and Transportation Satellite Accounts
GDP attributed to the demand for transportation offers one way to measure the contribution of transportation to the economy. The contribution of transportation services to GDP (shown here) offers another way to measure transportation's contribution to the economy. This metric captures less than expenditures on transportation goods and services because it excludes the contribution of goods used for transportation, such as vehicles and fuels.
The following shows the contribution of transportation to GDP including the for-hire, in-house, and household contribution compared to other industries and sectors. By accounting for the in-house and household contribution, the overall transportation contribution doubles in value.
While transportation contributes less to GDP than many other industries and sectors, all rely on transportation to acquire the raw materials needed to produce and deliver their products to businesses and households. 
The TSAs by BTS show the following information: 
  • the contribution of transportation to the economy, and 
  • the use of transportation by industries or sectors. 
The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) provides this information for for-hire transportation. The TSAs re-organize BEA's data to include in-house and household transportation.
(1) For-hire transportation services: air, rail, truck, passenger and ground transportation, pipeline, and other support services that transportation firms provide to industries and the public on a fee basis.
(2) In-house transportation services: air, rail, truck, and water transportation services produced by nontransportation industries for their own use (e.g., grocery stores owning and operating their own trucks to move goods from distribution centers to retail locations).
(3) Household transportation servicesownership and operation of motor vehicles by households. Here, BTS calculates the contribution of household transportation as the depreciation associated with households owning a motor vehicle.
Households contribute the largest amount to GDP followed by truck transportation, with in-house truck transportation contributing more than half of total truck transportation dollar value. Other for-hire transportation contributes the third largest to GDP. 
Other for-hire transportation includes: pipeline; transit and ground passenger transportation; sightseeing transportation and transportation support; courier and messenger services; and warehousing and storage.

For-hire Transportation
Not adjusted for inflation, the dollar contribution of for-hire air, rail, truck, and water transportation increased from 2012 to 2019, declined in 2020, and then rose in 2021. For-hire air transportation declined the most in 2020 likely due COVID-19, which significantly reduced passenger travel and to a lesser extent, air freight volumes due to the adoption of stay-at-home orders in many states and changes in passenger travel behavior and spending. For more information about the effects of COVID-19 on passenger and freight volumes, see: seasonally-adjusted transportation data.
In 2021, for-hire truck transportation's contribution in nominal dollars rose above it's contribution in 2019, while the contribution of all other modes remained below the 2019 level despite rising from 2020 to 2021. As a percent of GDP, the contribution in 2021 was equal to the contribution in 2019 across all modes.

Contribution of For-Hire Transportation to State GDP
The contribution of for-hire transportation to national and state GDP varies by state. States with larger total GDPs, such as California, for-hire transportation contributes more to national GDP even though for-hire transportation may account for a small portion of state GDP. States with major transportation hubs, such as Nebraska, for-hire transportation contributes to a large portion of the state’s GDP.
The contribution of in-house and household transportation to state GDP is not available.

Contribution of All Transportation Services | For-Hire Transportation | In-house and Household Transportation
In-house Transportation and Household Transportation
Not adjusted for inflation, the dollar contribution of in-house air, rail, truck, and water transportation increased from 2012 to 2019 and declined in 2020. Each in-house transportation mode fell less in 2020 than the same for-hire mode.  With the exception of in-house water and rail transportation, the contribution of each in-house mode rose in 2021, but in nominal dollars, only in-house trucking rose above the 2019 level in 2021.
The contribution of household transportation has risen continuously from 2012 to 2021.

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U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Transportation Economic Trends, available at

Bureau of Transportation Statistics
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, is the preeminent source of statistics on commercial aviation, multimodal freight activity, and transportation economics, and provides context to decision makers and the public for understanding statistics on transportation.