That the real-estate industry is an economic force for the city isn't a surprise, but the Real Estate Board of New York decided it wanted to find out just how big a role the sector plays.

The answer: really big.

The trade group released a report Tuesday highlighting the $15.4 billion in tax revenues collected from the real-estate industry in 2012. It included revenues from property, mortgages and commercial occupancy but excluded that from condos, co-ops and one-to-three family homes. The figures were inflation-adjusted.

The revenues represented about 38% of the city tax base, the report said, and the sector provided 361,200 jobs in 2012 and supported another 157,700 indirect jobs.

"By allowing these larger, more modern buildings to go up and allowing residential [buildings] and hotels to go up generates funds for city services," said Steven Spinola, REBNY president. "The hope is that the public will understand that development is not a negative. Good responsible development results in not just wonderful architecture and jobs but an income stream for the city."

The report, "The Invisible Engine: The Economic Impact of New York City's Real Estate Industry," was compiled by planning and engineering consulting firm AKRF Inc. It made no policy recommendations. Mr. Spinola also said the timing of the report had nothing to do with the start of a new administration at City Hall or Mayor Bill de Blasio's emphasis on creating more affordable housing.

The study said non-construction real-estate activity spurred about $6.3 billion in indirect economic benefits, with 43% of that in the finance and insurance sectors.

Information about real estate role in the city's economy wasn't a surprise for Victor Bach, senior housing policy analyst at Community Service Society, a nonprofit advocacy group for low-income New Yorkers. He said the industry received more than a billion dollars in tax exemptions and abatements under two programs, 421a and J-51.

"We think they are doing well enough to make an even greater contribution to the city's economy by providing more affordable housing and foregoing tax breaks, much of which is unneeded as incentive to development," Mr. Bach said.

In response, Mr. Spinola said subsidies sometimes were "needed to ensure responsible development can happen that will create jobs and tax revenue."

Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, said the industry was one of many sectors, including culture and tourism, that made New York unique.

"We need new growth and there is room for it, but you don't want it to come at the expense of areas and individual buildings that give New York its character," she said.

Write to Keiko Morris at