Economic Policy Institute Upbeat on Green Jobs

A new briefing paper by Ethan Pollack of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) titled "Counting up to Green: Assessing the green economy and its implications for growth and equity", paints a positive outlook for the green economy and its potential to create green jobs.

Green JobsAssessing the size of the green economy and the number of green jobs remains an important issue. Various slightly different definitions of green jobs make it difficult to accurately count the number of green jobs, and size the green economy. The US Government's Bureau of Labor Statistics published its own definition in Sept, 2010, and several Think Tanks have also published their own, most notably the Pew Charitable Trusts, and The Brookings Institution.

Flaws in the count of green jobs
The EPI report examines in details the data from the latest BLS report released in April 2012 in which the number of green jobs was estimated at 3.1 million in 2010. But the BLS report was found to have several flaws that led to under-counting the number of green jobs. First, the BLS did not follow its own definition of green jobs, and left out a portion of green jobs (type "B" jobs) that it found hard to measure. Second, the BLS didn't count green jobs in businesses that derive less than half of their revenue in green products and services.

Government does better than the private sector
Of the 3.1 million green jobs, 73% are in the private sector and 27% in government (federal, state and local). But when looking at the total number of jobs (green and non-green), 5% of government jobs are green, compared to 2% of private sector jobs.

Manufacturing is strongest
In the private sector, manufacturing accounts for the biggest share of green jobs, followed by construction, professional, scientific and technical, management and waste services, transportation and warehousing, trade, and utilities. Together, these 6 private economy sectors account for close to 90% of green jobs.

However, the report points out that when compared to the total number of jobs in each sector (green and non-green), the utilities sector is by far the strongest with 12% of its workforce employed in green jobs, compared to 6.8% in construction and 6.2% in manufacturing.

California dominates
From a regional view, the EPI report confirms TheGreenJobBank's own numbers with California having the largest number of green jobs, followed by New York and Texas.

Important findings
The findings of the EPI report also confirm what we, at TheGreenJobBank, have known for a long time:

  • Greener industries grow faster
  • Green states have fared better in the economic downturn
  • Green jobs are accessible to workers across the spectrum of education
  • Manufacturing plays a strong role in the green economy
  • Green jobs go beyond renewable energy. [That's been established long ago by TheGreenJobBank; see our own definition of green jobs]

The most stunning part of Ethan Pollack's report is its conclusion that predicts that the green economy and green jobs will help solve some of our most critical socio-economic problems: income inequality and disenfranchisement.

  "The old economic model relies on depleting the economy’s environmental capital stock at an unsustainable rate, depriving future generations of a healthy and diverse environment and harming long-run economic growth (since much of the economy depends on a clean environment and ample stocks of natural resources)."

  "In sum, a dirty economy subsidizes the well-off by taxing the poor and disenfranchised, distorts the market, and shortchanges future generations by leaving the world a worse place for them to live."

  "But the concept of green jobs does play an important role in illustrating a positive vision of a green economy. It reminds us that the seeds of a green transition are planted throughout the economy, that the fundamental structure of the economy will remain intact, and that this vision isn’t so radical but rather is already happening all around us."

Senior Policy Analyst at the Economic Policy Institute, Ethan Pollack's areas of expertise include Tax and Budget Policy, Public Economics, and Infrastructure.

Get the full report.

Infographics by the Economic Policy Institute.