Sizing the Clean Economy: A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment

The battle for green jobs has a new weapon that both sides will try to use to their advantage. The proponents will say it show the success of good policy, and the naysayers will use it to show the government money isn't the best way to promote a new industry.

No matter which side you're on, the report is interesting for several reasons:

  • The geographic distribution of green jobs isn't what most people would expect.
  • Some clean technology segments showed explosive job growth, and the clean economy as a whole outperformed the nation during the recession.
  • The clean economy is manufacturing and export intensive.
  • The clean economy offers more opportunities and better pay for low- and middle-skilled workers than the national economy as a whole.

The Obama administration, and the Democratic party will certainly use the last 2 items to make the point that continued support for the creation of green jobs is key to get the US out of the recession.

The Republican presidential candidates will have to be very careful how they use the report. The authors note that:

"As to what governments, policymakers, and regional leaders should do to catalyze faster and broader growth across the U.S. clean economy, it is clear that the private sector will play the lead role, but governments have a role too. In this connection, the fact that significant policy uncertainties and gaps are weakening market demand for clean economy goods and services, chilling finance, and raising questions about the clean innovation pipeline reinforces the need for engagement and reform. Not only are other nations bidding to secure global production and the jobs that come with it but the United States currently risks failing to exploit growing world demand. And so this report concludes that vigorous private sector-led growth needs to be co-promoted through complementary engagements by all levels of the nation’s federal system to ensure the existence of well-structured markets, a favorable investment climate, and a rich stock of cutting-edge technology—as well as strong regional cast to all efforts."

The conclusions and the full report are available at the Brookings Institution.