Bureau of Labor Statistics Reports 3.1 Million U.S. Green Jobs: Top 5 Takeaways

by Jorge Madrid and Adam James

Green Goods and Services (GGS) accounted for 2.4 percent of total U.S. employment in 2010, with almost a third of all jobs supporting the badly hit construction and manufacturing sector, says a new analysis released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The vast majority of these jobs were in the private sector (2.3 million) while the public sector accounted for 860,300. While the GGS sector certainly got a boost in 2010 from the stimulus, considered the “Most Important Energy Bill in American History,” a similar analysis of the clean economy by the Brookings Institution finds that this snapshot is part of a wider trend showing green jobs is on the rise.

The BLS has also taken a stab at defining green jobs:

  • Jobs in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources. Green goods and services fall into one or more of five groups: energy from renewable sources, energy efficiency, pollution reduction and removal, natural resources conservation, and environmental compliance, training, and public awareness.
  • Jobs in which workers’ duties involve making their establishment’s production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources. These workers research, develop, or use technologies and practices to lessen the environmental impact of their establishment, or train the establishment’s workers or contractors in these technologies and practices. These technologies and practices fall into one or more of four groups: energy from renewable sources, energy efficiency, pollution reduction and removal, and natural resource confirmation.

The BLS spent over a year analyzing and accounting these figures, at times fighting through bitter criticism and resistance from political opponents and their supporters from Big Oil. We suspect that we have not heard the last from them.

But for now, while many interesting storylines can be fleshed out from this new data, here are our top 5 takeaways:

1. Green Jobs Are Supporting Two of the Nation’s Hardest Hit Industries: At the peak of the recession in 2009, construction and manufacturing sectors reported unemployment rates of 19 percent and 12.1 percent respectively. Collapse in these industries put massive numbers of hardworking Americans out of work, and bolstering them should be high priority for economic recovery. We’ve see that green building accounted for 25 percent of all new construction ventures in 2010, including energy efficiency retrofits which create jobs at 3 times the rate of oil and gas investments. Likewise, we know that 50 percent of parts for wind turbines are American-made, along with 90% percent of energy efficiency materials like HVAC systems, siding, and refrigerators.


2. Green Jobs Out-Number Fossil Fuel Jobs 4 to 1: CAP analysis of 2010 BLS figures found 575,000 jobs in the oil and gas sector, including extraction, refining, and other support activities — even with oil and gas production reaching an 8-year high under the Obama Administration. Adding mining and related activities to the mix brings 2010 fossil fuel jobs to 783,000, nearly 4 times smaller than the total Green Goods and Services category. According analysis by the Brookings Institution, green jobs outpaced the job growth in the greater economy by a factor of 2 to 1 during the peak of the recession (2008–2010), and pay an average of $7,000 more than other jobs across the greater economy.

3. Green Jobs are Diverse: While construction and manufacturing account for the majority of all private-sector jobs in the GGS category, there are also other diverse sectors that include professional scientific services, recycling and waste reduction, administration, and mass transportation activities. In contrast, more than one-third of all 2010 jobs in the oil and gas sector were in support services, including gas station attendants. According to projection from the American Petroleum Institute (API), nearly half of all oil jobs will be in gas stations by 2030.

4. Green jobs are Regional Economic Drivers: In every geographic region, green jobs represented an increasing percentage of total employment growth. In the South, Alabama and Missouri saw 44,288 and 65,205 jobs added in 2010- representing 2.4% and 2.5% of total employment. On the west coast, California and Oregon added 338,445 and 54,953 jobs- representing 2.3% and 3.4% of total employment. The Midwest saw phenomenal growth, with 22,192 green jobs constituting 3.7% of their total employment — and a whopping 126,855 jobs in Ohio making up 2.6% of total growth. On the east coast New York added 248,526 green jobs, accounting for 3% of new employment. There were 26,941 green jobs added in Washington, DC, which was 3.9% of total employment. No matter what corner of this country you travel to, green jobs are putting Americans back to work.

5. Green jobs are the Future: The truly exciting trend is that these jobs are being created across all economic sectors and a diverse set of employment categories. These are concrete changes that we can see in our own communities. Green jobs are transforming the economy to be more efficient, less polluting, and more competitive in new technologies and global industries like clean energy. America has always been on the cutting edge of innovation and we are already seeing our investments in the clean economy paying dividends. We need the right policies and bold political will to continue this solid growth.

Click here to find out how many green jobs are in your state.

Jorge Madrid is a research associate for the energy policy team at the Center for American Progress. Adam James is a special assistant for energy policy at the Center for American Progress.