Internet sector contributes $2.1 trillion to U.S. economy: industry group

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The rapidly growing internet sector accounted for $2.1 trillion of the U.S. economy in 2018, or about 10% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), an industry group said on Thursday.

The Internet Association, a group representing Inc AMZN.O, Facebook Inc FB.O, Alphabet Inc GOOGL.O, Twitter Inc TWTR.N, Uber Technology Inc UBER.N and many other firms, released its estimate as the tech sector has come under increasing criticism, with some lawmakers calling for the breakup of major firms and renewed antitrust scrutiny.

The study says the internet sector represents the fourth largest sector of the U.S. economy, behind real estate, government and manufacturing.

Last year, manufacturing accounted for about $2.3 trillion in U.S. GDP.

The study found that the internet sector has nearly 6 million direct jobs, which accounts for 4% of U.S. jobs, while U.S. internet firms spent $64 billion in capital expenditures. The study also found the internet sector indirectly supports another 13 million jobs.

In 2015, the Internet Association estimated the sector was responsible for an estimated $966.2 billion, or 6% GDP in 2014.

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) in April estimated the “digital economy” accounted for 6.9% of the 2017 U.S. GDP, or $1.35 trillion, in 2017, placing it in seventh place overall. That definition includes digital-enabling infrastructure, e-commerce transactions, and digital media but does not include ride-sharing services and other goods and services connected to the “sharing” economy.

The Internet Association study used Census, BEA, and SEC government data from 2018 to estimate the internet sector’s contributions to the American economy. The group’s chief economist, Christopher Hooton said the internet industry is “creating jobs in every sector of the economy” and said the new analysis more accurately captures the internet’s economic impact.

The BEA study notes that employees working in the U.S. digital economy earned $132,223 in average compensation in 2017, compared to $68,506 per worker for the total U.S. economy.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Sandra Maler