The United States added 106,320 clean energy jobs in June, which marks the sector’s first uptick since the coronavirus pandemic’s onset, according to a new BW Research Partnership report. However, this employment upswing only reverses a fraction of the clean energy jobs lost since before the pandemic, leaving the sector’s overall employment picture less than rosy.
The report estimates a total of 514,270 clean energy jobs were lost over the past four months, which factors in an improvement since the May estimate of 620,590 losses.The highest numbers of jobs lost by state have been in California (89,881 jobs), Georgia (27,353 jobs) and Florida (26,643 jobs).
Energy efficiency — the largest clean energy sub-sector — saw a 4 percent rise in employment in June, while renewable electric power generation experienced 3.5 percent growth. But other sub-sectors saw smaller rebounds, such as clean fuels (2,400 jobs gained), clean transmission, distribution and storage (4,600 jobs gained) and clean vehicles (10,300 jobs gained).
BW Research analyzed U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data for both May and June, as well as the Department of Labor’s weekly unemployment summaries. The report covers the period post-Memorial Day through mid-June, “when most of the states were well into their economic reopening plans and very few restrictions were in place” for the clean energy sector.
“It is troubling that only about one in six clean energy jobs lost since March returned in the weeks following reopening,” the report added.
Furthermore, pauses in or reversals of states’ reopening plans due to rising COVID-19 infections “will put immediate pressure on clean energy jobs and will blunt future potential recovery.” BW Research estimates that as many as 2.3 million clean energy employees work for companies that have received Paycheck Protection Program loans, a pool that has been largely exhausted.
Finally, the report notes that across the economy people of color, women, young people and those with lower educational attainment are experiencing unemployment at above-average rates. And while the clean energy employment data is not granular enough to provide demographic insights for the sector, BW Research is developing its analysis “in order to contribute significant findings to this conversation” in the future.
The report was co-commissioned by Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), E4theFuture and the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE).