Friday, July 15, 2011

Green Jobs Can Put America Back to Work!

The Brookings Institution has just put together a report analyzing the impact of green jobs and the emerging "clean economy," looking in particular on the impact on metro areas. The report offers a detailed look how expanded investment in this sector could benefit urban areas and regional economies.

Among the the report's findings:

Sizing the Clean Economy: A Green Jobs Assessment - Brookings Institution:

"...The clean economy, which employs some 2.7 million workers, encompasses a significant number of jobs in establishments spread across a diverse group of industries. Though modest in size, the clean economy employs more workers than the fossil fuel industry and bulks larger than bioscience but remains smaller than the IT-producing sectors. Most clean economy jobs reside in mature segments that cover a wide swath of activities including manufacturing and the provision of public services such as wastewater and mass transit. A smaller portion of the clean economy encompasses newer segments that respond to energy-related challenges. These include the solar photovoltaic (PV), wind, fuel cell, smart grid, biofuel, and battery industries."

The clean economy grew more slowly in aggregate than the national economy between 2003 and 2010, but newer “cleantech” segments produced explosive job gains and the clean economy outperformed the nation during the recession. Overall, today’s clean economy establishments added half a million jobs between 2003 and 2010, expanding at an annual rate of 3.4 percent. This performance lagged the growth in the national economy, which grew by 4.2 percent annually over the period (if job losses from establishment closings are omitted to make the data comparable). However, this measured growth heavily reflected the fact that many longer-standing companies in the clean economy—especially those involved in housing- and building-related segments—laid off large numbers of workers during the real estate crash of 2007 and 2008, while sectors unrelated to the clean economy (mainly health care) created many more new jobs nationally. At the same time, newer clean economy establishments— especially those in young energy-related segments such as wind energy, solar PV, and smart grid—added jobs at a torrid pace, albeit from small bases.

The clean economy is manufacturing and export intensive. Roughly 26 percent of all clean economy jobs lie in manufacturing establishments, compared to just 9 percent in the broader economy. On a per job basis, establishments in the clean economy export roughly twice the value of a typical U.S. job ($20,000 versus $10,000). The electric vehicles (EV), green chemical products, and lighting segments are all especially manufacturing intensive while the biofuels, green chemicals, and EV industries are highly export intensive.

The clean economy offers more opportunities and better pay for low- and middle-skilled workers than the national economy as a whole. Median wages in the clean economy—meaning those in the middle of the distribution—are 13 percent higher than median U.S. wages. Yet a disproportionate percentage of jobs in the clean economy are staffed by workers with relatively little formal education in moderately well-paying “green collar” occupations.

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