Industries that support a higher number of “green” workers who are making goods and services more environmentally friendly have experienced a higher rate of growth over the last decade than industries with fewer green jobs.
That’s according to a new study from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), which analyzed data on the green workforce from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS data, which was released in March, documented 3.1 million green jobs nationwide in renewable energy, water management, recycling, and various positions that help improve the efficiency and environmental footprint of a company or institution.
BLS defined green jobs as:
Jobs in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources; or, jobs in which workers’ duties involve making their establishment’s production processes more environmentally friendly or ensuring that they use fewer natural resources.
The agency’s figures were given little attention in the mainstream press and were ridiculed by Republicans for including a broad array of positions in transportation, manufacturing, and waste services.
However, Ethan Pollack, a senior policy analyst with EPI, believed there was more to the data set. So he looked at how environmental and efficiency initiatives were impacting job growth in various sectors.
Pollack found that for every percentage point increase in the “green intensity” of a particular industry, annual job growth in that sector increased by 0.034 of a percentage point between 2000 and 2010.
Pollack also compared the green intensity of industries with BLS employment projections through 2020, finding that industries working to make their processes more efficient and their products more environmentally friendly will likely see a 0.019 percentage point increase in employment over industries that do not.
“The conversation around green jobs has become polarizing,” said Pollack on a conference call Wednesday. “But the concept of green jobs should not be polarizing. We’re trying to depoliticize this issue and show that green jobs are all around us.”
The analysis also found that states with a higher penetration of green jobs saw slightly faster economic recoveries after the recession than states with fewer green jobs. However, this trend is heavily influenced by stimulus funding, which played a major role in continuing investment momentum in the clean energy industries.
This is consistent with last year’s Brookings Institution green jobs study, which found that the “clean economy” grew by 8.3 percent during the height of the U.S. economic downturn between 2008 and 2009 — almost double the overall economy during that period.
Traditionally, green jobs have been defined strictly within the clean energy sector. But that industry is only one piece of the overall shift toward a more sustainable economy. In their respective reports, Brookings and BLS tried to define those jobs as providing a broader array of goods and services that make operations more environmentally friendly — offering a better representation of how businesses and institutions will make the transition.
This latest report from EPI shows that the deeper the “greening” goes in industries, the more jobs are created.