Job growth may still be stubborn and sluggish throughout most of the U.S. economy, but one sector is adding more jobs than ever: the green economy. Green goods and services — the term used to describe businesses that produce goods and/or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources — account for 3.1 million jobs, or 2.4 percent of total employment, according to a newly released study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The only other industry that comes remotely close to this job growth is the oil and gas sector, which employs nearly 2.2 million, according to the American Petroleum Institute. Not only is the fast growing green sector helping bolster the current economy, it’s also creating invaluable potential for the future, as Cai Steger, an energy policy analyst at the National Resources Defense Council’s Center for Market Innovation, writes:
Every other country in the world is also focusing on developing their own green economy, which will provide plenty of demand globally for goods and services of the green economy, and a lot of export opportunities for us if we can take leadership in this sector.
BLS’ Green Jobs study mirrors statistics released last year by Brookings Institution that explored the size of the “clean,” or green economy. Brookings’ Sizing the Clean Economy” study counted 2.7 million green jobs and calculated the biggest growth among businesses and start-ups in the wind energy, green architecture and clean-tech segments.
Fastest growing green segments
Most of the 3.1 million jobs counted in the BLS study are private sector jobs. Green manufacturing, which makes products such as iron and steel from recycled inputs, air conditioning and refrigeration equipment meeting selected standards, hybrid cars and parts and pollution mitigation equipment, accounts for nearly 500,000 of these jobs — the most among any private sector industry, according to the BLS.
Other top segments in the green economy include:
•Construction: With 372,100 jobs, this segment involves constructing plants that produce energy from renewable sources, as well as weatherizing and retrofitting projects that reduce household energy consumption.
•Professional, scientific and technical services: Accounting for 349,000 jobs, this segment consists of engineering and architectural services, computer systems design, and green management and consulting.
•Administrative and waste services: With 319,900 jobs, this segment includes waste collection and remediation services.
Within the private sector, the utilities industry is responsible for a sizable portion of these jobs (65,700 of them), including jobs involving hydroelectric and nuclear power generation as well as wind, biomass, geothermal and solar power generation. The public sector accounts for 860,300 green jobs, most of which involve operating mass transit systems, enforcing environmental regulations and administering environmental programs.
Green jobs grow across U.S.
Where can workers go to find green jobs? Vermont boasted the highest percentage of total employment in this sector at 4.4 percent, followed by the District of Columbia, Idaho, Alaska and Maryland.
States with highest number of green jobs overall include:
•New York (248,000)
The green economy is on track to grow even more as the U.S. embraces alternative sources of energy such as wind power and solar power. Texas, for example, is becoming known as a sustainable energy powerhouse, revamping agricultural land no longer in use into wind energy farms in western and coastal parts of the state and turning its capital city of Austin into a clean-tech hub.
Are green jobs growing in your community, region or state? If so, what can local leaders do to keep that momentum up? We want to hear from you; please share your thoughts below.