Report: Growth of Clean Energy Jobs Outpacing Other Jobs

June 18, 2009
A glimmer of positive news in an otherwise bleak job environment in the United States: The number of jobs in Americas emerging clean energy economy grew nearly two and a half times faster than overall jobs between 1998 and 2007, according to a report by

Pew found that jobs in the clean energy economy grew at a national rate of 9.1%, while traditional jobs grew by only 3.7% between 1998 and 2007. There was a similar pattern at the state level, where job growth in the clean energy economy outperformed overall job growth in 38 states and the District of Columbia during the same period, according to the Pew report.

The report notes that the clean energy sector is set to expand significantly, driven by increasing consumer demand, venture capital infusions and federal and state policy reforms.

"The clean energy economy is poised for explosive growth," said Lori Grange, interim deputy director of the Pew Center on the States. "These jobs are driving economic growth and environmental sustainability at a time when America needs both. There is a potential competitive advantage for federal and state policy leaders who act now to spur jobs, businesses and investments in the clean energy sector."

America's clean energy economy has grown despite a lack of sustained government support in the past decade, the report asserts. By 2007, more than 68,200 businesses across all 50 states and the District of Columbia accounted for about 770,000 jobs. By comparison, the well-established fossil-fuel sector -- including utilities, coal mining and oil and gas extraction, industries that have received significant government investment -- comprised about 1.27 million workers in 2007, according to the report.

Green Growth in the Rust Belt

The report's findings were welcome news for states such as Ohio, which has been hit hard by the exodus of manufacturing jobs over the past decade. Ohio ranks fourth in terms of clean energy job growth, according to the Pew report.

At a June 12 press conference held at the Cleveland headquarters of Stratum Technologies, which specializes in polymer battery technology, Tom Bullock of the Pew Environment Group said the report is "strong confirmation that clean energy is a growth industry for Ohio."

"Jobs in Ohio's clean energy sector grew by more than 7% between 1998 and 2007 -- even as the state lost jobs overall in the same period," Bullock said. "Ohio attracted more than $74 million in clean technology venture capital in just the past three years, and it's been a hub for clean energy research. Those investments -- along with its aggressive renewable energy policy -- should help Ohio's clean energy economy continue to grow."

In Ohio, overall jobs declined 2.2% between 1998 and 2007, according to the report. In 2007, there were 32,250 jobs in Ohio's clean energy economy, the report notes.

The report found that the emerging clean energy economy is creating well-paying jobs in every state for people of all skill levels and educational backgrounds. Jobs include engineers, plumbers, administrative assistants, construction workers, machine setters, marketing consultants, teachers and others, with annual incomes ranging from $21,000 to $111,000, according to the organization.

Pew: First-Ever Hard Count' of Clean Energy Jobs

For the report, Pew said it developed a clear, data-driven definition of the clean energy economy and conducted the first-ever hard count across all 50 states of the actual jobs, companies and venture capital investments that supply the growing market demand for environmentally friendly products and services.

Pew's definition of the clean energy economy is based on research and input from experts in the field, including an advisory panel convened to help guide the study.

According to Pew, "A clean energy economy generates jobs, businesses and investments while expanding clean energy production, increasing energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, waste and pollution, and conserving water and other natural resources." It comprises five categories: clean energy; energy efficiency; environmentally friendly production; conservation and pollution mitigation; and training and support, according to the organization.

The report asserts that the private and public sectors recognize the opportunity that the clean energy economy presents. Venture capital investment in clean technology crossed the $1 billion threshold in 2005 and continued to grow substantially, reaching a total of about $12.6 billion by the end of 2008, according to Pew. Meanwhile, states will receive a major infusion of federal funds through the recently enacted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which allocates nearly $85 billion in direct spending and tax incentives for energy- and transportation-related programs, the report notes.

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About the Author

Josh Cable | Former Senior Editor

Former Senior Editor Josh Cable covered innovation issues -- including trends and best practices in R&D, process improvement and product development. He also reported on the best practices of the most successful companies and executives in the world of transportation manufacturing, which encompasses the aerospace, automotive, rail and shipbuilding sectors. 

Josh also led the IndustryWeek Manufacturing Hall of Fame, IW’s annual tribute to the most influential executives and thought leaders in U.S. manufacturing history.

Before joining IndustryWeek, Josh was the editor-in-chief of Penton Media’s Government Product News and Government Procurement. He also was an award-winning beat reporter for several small newspapers in Northeast Ohio.

Josh received his BFA in creative writing from Bowling Green University, and continued his professional development through course-work at Ohio University and Cuyahoga Community College.

A lifelong resident of the Buckeye State, Josh currently lives in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland. When the weather cooperates, you’ll find him riding his bike to work, exercising his green thumb in the backyard or playing ultimate Frisbee.  

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