In 2010, 3.1 million U.S. jobs were associated with the production of environmentally friendly goods and services, representing 2.4 percent of total U.S. employment, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Thursday.
The figures represent the first hard federal data quantifying the notoriously squishy subject of “green jobs,” and finally give advocates of clean energy a concrete set of employment numbers to point to. The data, which will be updated annually, provides a baseline against which future growth in the sector will be measured.
Among the report’s findings: nearly all green jobs (2.3 million) are in the private sector, and the sectors with the most green jobs also were among the hardest-hit by the recent recession—manufacturing (with 461,847 green jobs) and construction (372,077 green jobs). There are 349,024 green jobs in professional, scientific, and technical services, according to the report.
By comparison, there were 783,000 jobs in the oil, gas, and coal-mining industries and related services in January 2010, the most recent month for which BLS figures were available. That provides clean-job proponents with ammo for a direct attack on Republicans, who have touted fossil-fuel extraction as a major U.S. job creator.
Since promising to create 5 million green jobs on the campaign trail in 2008, Obama has been slammed by Republicans for touting the growth of a vague, unquantifiable new category of job. But numbers-crunchers at the BLS have been working for over a year to create a clear definition of green jobs.
The definition is as follows: “a. Jobs in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources, b. Jobs in which workers’ duties involve making their establishment’s production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources.”
Expect the numbers to get injected straight into the campaign messages of President Obama and others seeking election this fall, as energy continues to be one of the hottest topics on the trail in 2012.
The BLS, part of the Labor Department, is the agency that measures employment in the United States and puts out monthly jobs statistics.