Are Green Jobs Still The Fastest Growing Segment in US Economy?

It may surprise you to hear that as of 2011, green jobs were the fastest growing segment of the US economy.

You’d never know that listening to the mainstream media, which simply parroted Republicans’ in asking, Where are the green jobs?

And where did all that money spent under the Recovery Act (Stimulus) go? 

In reality, the Stimulus created lots of green jobs by doubling the amount of clean energy in the US and by making great strides in energy efficiency.

And those jobs were created in two of the hardest hit industries during the "great recession" – construction and manufacturing, according to the most recent data compiled by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Let’s look at the numbers:

Although green jobs still comprised a tiny percentage of US employment at the end of 2011 – 2.6% – there were about 3.4 million of them in the US.

They accounted for 2.3% of private sector jobs (about 2.5 million) and 4.2% of public sector jobs (886,000).

Green jobs grew 4.9% from from 2010-2011, four times faster than even healthcare, which is often cited as the fastest growing segment. 

In 2011, jobs overall grew 1.2% – healthcare expanded by 1.8%, restaurants by 2.7% and manufacturing by 1.7%.

As you’d expect, California had the most green jobs (360,245), accounting for 2.5% of employment in the state. 5.1% of jobs in Washington DC were green jobs in 2011, followed by Oregon, where they accounted for 4.3% of all jobs.

10 States had over 100,000 green jobs in 2011:

California: 360,245
New York: 266,308
Texas: 227,532
Pennsylvania: 167,397
Ohio: 137,143
Illinois: 136,447
Florida: 117,433
North Carolina: 108,094
Virginia: 107,773
Washington: 101,593

In the private sector, manufacturing and construction showed the biggest gains in green jobs. Green jobs made up 4.3% of all manufacturing jobs, producing products such as recycled iron and steel, efficient air conditioning and refrigeration equipment, hybrid cars and parts, and pollution mitigation equipment.

In construction, green jobs made up 8.9% of all jobs, an increase of 26.4% over 2010, building renewable energy projects and retrofitting homes and buildings for energy efficiency. 

Although green jobs are found in every segment of the economy, for these purposes, the Bureau defines them as primarly involved in production of green goods and services, such as renewable energy, pollution reduction and recycling, natural resources conservation, and education and training related to environmental compliance.

Impact of Stimulus

This growth in green jobs was obviously related to the surge in investment under the American Recovery Act, which started in 2009. 

In 2011, US cleantech investments jumped 42% from the year before to $48 billion, more than any other country.

At the time, President Obama announced a target of creating five million green jobs over the next decade. This data shows the goal was realistic, but since then, as we all know, investment has slowed dramatically.

For example, out of the 200 programs funded through the Recovery Act, weatherization ranked second for job creation, but funding has since been cut to the bone.

Government jobs in particular have been hit hard at state and federal levels, shedding about 800,000 jobs in the last few years. Since about a quarter of green jobs are in government, they too have likely declined since 2011. 

We may never know what happened to the green job market in 2012, however, because as the Bureau prepared to carry out its third annual survey the sequester kicked in – and this report is one of the casualties.

We do know the solar industry is currently adding jobs eight times faster than the overall economy.

Read the Bureau of Labor Statistics report:

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