The Bureau of Labor Statistics issued its first-ever green jobs report on Thursday, revealing that a higher percentage of jobs in the U.S. make up that sector than are in the oil and gas industries.
In a conference call held by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) about the report, Cai Steger, energy policy analyst at NRDC, said that the study shows that green jobs are important to rebuilding the economy and offer an opportunity for growth, since many of the elements in the field are new, such as green technology, sustainable products and pollution remediation. He added that many of these jobs could not be outsourced from the U.S.
Data show that there are 3.1 million green jobs in the U.S., making up about 2% of the total. Senior research analyst Jonathan Rothwell at the Brookings Institution said that was slightly larger than the number of jobs in the oil and gas sector, citing figures from the American Petroleum Institute. Rothwell added that while the sector was still considerably smaller than, say, health care, its jobs were from “a diverse set of industries that are present in every metropolitan area and every state, and it’s already a well-established part of the economy.”
Brookings has also done a study of green jobs, and Rothwell said that in both studies manufacturing was the most important private sector within the green jobs economy. Manufacturing, he said, accounts for 15% of all green jobs. “It’s disproportionately a source of good-paying jobs for workers without advanced college degrees,” he added, and is “a strategically important part of the economy. To the extent that manufacturing growth can be accelerated, that’s good for the U.S.”
Judith Albert, director of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), a group of businesses that promote environmental policy that works toward economic prosperity, said that the organization’s newsletter tracks jobs by state, congressional district and region and that there are green job opportunities being created across the country.
While California has the most green jobs at 338,400 (2010 figures), those jobs make up 2.3% of the jobs in the state. Vermont had the highest percentage of green jobs, at 4.4%, and Washington, D.C. was next with 3.9%. Six states had more than 100,000 green jobs each: California topped the list, of course, but was followed by New York (248,500), Texas (229,700), Pennsylvania (182,200), Illinois (139,800) and Ohio (126,900).
While the growth of green jobs cannot be gauged by the study, since it is the first of its kind, with other countries also boosting their investment in green jobs it presents an opportunity in a broad range of areas, said the participants. Rothwell also said, “Green jobs provide a public good that is not necessarily captured in conventional measures.”