Green jobs employed 3.1 million people across the United States in 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Thursday.
This figure represented 2.4 percent of all jobs nationwide that year, was spread across the country by location and sector, and is the first set of solid federal data defining the size and scope of “green jobs,” which until now have been quantified only by individual states or policy organizations.
Beyond comprising a major slice of the US economy, green jobs also dwarfed fossil fuel industries. National Journal reports there were only 783,000 jobs in the oil, gas, and coal-mining industries during January 2010 (the most recent month available from BLS).
BLS broadly defines green jobs under the category of Green Goods and Services (GGS) as those “found in businesses that produce goods and provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources.” The GGS survey includes 120,000 businesses and government entities across 333 industries.
The private sector, by far, had the largest number of GGS jobs, with 2.3 million total jobs evenly distributed across four major sectors — manufacturing, construction, professional services, and administrative or waste services. Manufacturing represented the greatest number of GGS jobs with 461,000, construction was second with 372,000, professional services was third with 349,000, and administrative or waste services had 319,000 jobs.
The public sector had 860,000 GGS jobs, or roughly four percent of total government jobs. Local governments made up more than half the public sector total with 476,000 jobs, followed by mass transit systems with 229,000 jobs and the federal government with 157,000 jobs.
GGS jobs were widely spread across the country, and largely followed population trends. Six states had more than 100,000 GGS jobs: California with 338,000, New York with 249,000, Texas with 230,000, Pennsylvania with 182,000, Illinois with 140,000, and Ohio with 127,000. Vermont had the highest percentage of GGS jobs in the country with 4.4 percent, even though its total was just 12,884 GGS jobs.
Green jobs have been a theoretical concept until now, and subject to disagreement and doubt. But the BLS findings leave little margin for conjecture, and firmly establish that green economy is a sizable — and growing — part of our national economic future.
Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy public relations company based in Washington, D.C.