A new report from the Employment Security Department shows that so-called “green jobs” took a pummeling in the recession – just like they did everywhere else in the economy. Researchers say they are stumped for an explanation. Though perhaps one clue is provided by the fact that 60 percent of the decline occurred in the public sector, at a time when plummeting tax revenues have forced government to retrench. The report also points up the difficulty in defining what, exactly, green jobs are. Here’s the release from Employment Security:
Third Green-Jobs Report: Economy Taking a Toll, But Still Little Difference Between Green and ‘Regular’ Economy
OLYMPIA, June 25. – In its third study of green jobs in Washington, the Employment Security Department found evidence that the recession took a toll on jobs involved in developing or using environmentally friendly products.
The study also supported earlier findings that there’s little difference between a green economy and the regular economy.
Unlike the reports in 2008 and 2009, the “2011 Green-Economy Jobs Report” takes a comprehensive look at all private- and public-sector industries in Washington. Altogether, the department found an estimated 120,000 green jobs in 2011, nearly 105,000 of them in the private sector.
Since it was the first comprehensive study, researchers cannot accurately estimate the total change in green jobs since 2008. However, among the industries that were surveyed in both 2009 and 2011, green jobs declined by an estimated 18,300, or 18 percent.
About 60 percent of the decline occurred in the government sector. But private-sector green jobs also shrank in industries that previously had reported increases.
Researchers couldn’t identify a specific reason for the declines.
“It appears the recession took at least some toll on green jobs, but how employers interpret the definition may be another factor,” said Cynthia Forland, research director for Employment Security.
Washington state defines a green job as one in which workers are helping to increase energy efficiency, produce renewable energy, or prevent, reduce or clean up pollution. In the department’s survey, employers were asked to identify how many of their employees had one or more of these activities as a primary focus of their jobs.
“As more and more jobs incorporate elements of green activities, there may be fewer jobs where green responsibilities are a primary focus,” Forland said. “The green economy and the regular economy are mostly one and the same.”
To date, studies in Washington and across the nation have not identified any new industries that are uniquely green – and only a few green occupations, such as wind-turbine technician and solar-panel designer. In 2011, employers said that two-thirds of their green jobs had skill requirements that were identical or mostly the same as non-green jobs.
In addition to measuring green jobs in the overall economy, the report breaks out the number of green jobs by industry and occupation. It also estimates wages and educational requirements for green jobs.