• 40+ states continue to suffer double-digit unemployment in clean energy

  • 13% of clean energy workforce still jobless as industry nears slow season

  • Job growth remains below 0.9% across all sectors

WASHINGTON (November 12, 2020) – The clean energy industry added fewer than 24,000 jobs in October, leaving more than 454,000 (13% of the sector’s workforce) unemployed as the nation enters the holiday season. For the fourth straight month, clean energy jobs grew by less than 1%, according to the latest analysis of federal unemployment filings prepared for E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), E4TheFuture and the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) by BW Research Partnership.

According to the monthly report, three out of every four clean energy workers who lost their jobs at the beginning of the crisis remain out of work. At the current rate of recovery, it would take more than 18 months for the sector to reach pre-COVID employment levels, and until 2023 to meet the sector’s projected 2020 job growth as calculated before the pandemic hit. The 2020 U.S. Energy & Employment Report (USEER) employer survey had originally projected that more than 175,000 clean energy jobs would be added this year.

In 2018 and 2019, clean energy created about 190,000 new jobs nationwide. Before COVID-19, nearly 3.4 million Americans across all 50 states and the District of Columbia worked in clean energy occupations, including renewable energy, energy efficiency, grid modernization, clean vehicles and fuels. That’s more people than work in real estate, banking or agriculture in the U.S., and three times the number of Americans that worked in fossil fuels, according to E2’s Clean Jobs America report.

Alarming employment trends across the economy continued in October. Long-term and permanent unemployment rates rose sharply, and now account for one-third of all unemployed workers. In addition, weekly unemployment claims continue to hit historic highs. With COVID-19 cases spiking around the country as the nation enters the winter months, when hiring tends to slow, more layoffs could be imminent without support from Congress.

Sandra Purohit, Advocacy Director at E2, said:

“Congress returns from elections as clean energy job growth continues to stall and permanent job losses increase. With stimulus discussions on the table again, Congress must turn this around by passing clean energy tax extenders and making funds available directly to clean energy businesses to help with job growth immediately.”

Pat Stanton, Policy Director for E4TheFuture, said:

“Out of all clean energy workers, energy efficiency professionals continue to suffer the most job losses. This segment remains down by 321,875 compared with January 2020 numbers. If this had been a normal year, the efficiency sector would have added about 34,500 jobs since March.”

Gregory Wetstone, President and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), said:

”The pace of recovery of renewable energy jobs lost due to COVID-19 is far too slow, with October proving to be yet another month where we gained back less than 1% of the renewable workers who lost their jobs in the pandemic. As we enter the traditionally slow winter season, our ask to Congress is an urgent one: We need temporary refundability for renewable tax credits so that projects can be completed in spite of a COVID-constrained tax equity market, and a delay in the scheduled phasedown of existing credits in recognition of the adverse nationwide impact the pandemic has had on the renewable sector this year.”

Mitchell Schirch, Research Analyst at BW Research Partnership, said:

“Hundreds of thousands of clean energy workers continue to face economic turmoil due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and as we enter the winter months, there’s no sign of relief. Congress needs to deliver a clean jobs program that provides high quality jobs to the working class while achieving the decarbonization goals necessary for a future on our planet.”

Monthly Clean Energy Job Losses by Sector:

Sector March  April  May   June  July August Sept. Oct. Total 
Energy Efficiency -103,298 -309,584 -18,880 71,786 6,836 8,116 8,354 16,806 -319,864
Renewables -23,739 -71,705 -4,272 17,287 1,918 2,571 2,273 3,965 -71,704
Clean Vehicles -11,399 -35,070 -2,059 10,335 896 2,182 965 1,615 -32,536
Grid & Storage -6,517 -19,666 -1,166 4,561 428 482 510 1,042 -20,326
Clean Fuels -2,186 -10,390 -657 2,351 296 205 378 409 -9,594
TOTAL -147,139 -446,416 -27,035 106,320 10,373 13,556 12,479 23,838 -454,024

State Clean Energy Unemployment by Total Losses:

State Total Losses Percent of Clean Energy Workforce
California 76,638 13.90%
Georgia 26,540 30.70%
Florida 24,000 14.30%
Michigan 22,671 17.00%
Texas 20,765 8.40%
North Carolina 18,340 16.00%
Pennsylvania 17,340 17.90%
Washington 17,124 19.20%
Ohio 14,774 12.70%
New York 14,329 8.10%

For expanded state and county findings, download the full report here.

State and Sector Impacts

While no clean energy sector grew by more than 0.8% in October, energy efficiency had the highest job growth, adding 16,800 jobs. It was followed by renewable energy (4,000) and clean vehicles (1,600)

More than 40 states still suffer double-digit unemployment in clean energy, with five states seeing unemployment of 20% or more. Georgia continues to have the highest rate, with over 30% of its clean energy workforce still unemployed, followed by Kentucky at 28%. In October, the sector’s highest growth rate was experienced in Hawaii (1.5%) and North Carolina (1.3%), while California again saw the largest total increase in jobs with 5,200 positions added (1.1%). Florida, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, and Texas also added more than 1,000 jobs, while 23 states and the District of Columbia added fewer than 200 jobs each. Nationwide, 44 states saw job growth under 1% in October.

The data analyzed for this report did not include workers who had their work hours slashed and are now significantly underemployed.

For more information, including breakdowns by state, county and metro area, click here. For interview requests, please contact Michael Timberlake (913-645-9103; mtimberlake@e2.org); Alex Frank (703-276-3264; afrank@hastingsgroup.com); or Alex Hobson (202-594-0706; hobson@acore.org)

Background

The analysis expands on data from the 2020 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER) produced by the Energy Futures Initiative (EFI) in partnership with the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO), using data collected and analyzed by the BW Research Partnership. The report was released in March 2020 and is available at www.usenergyjobs.org. E2 and E4TheFuture are partners on the annual USEER, the fifth installment of the energy survey first released by the Department of Energy in 2016 and subsequently abandoned under the Trump administration. 

Previous E2, E4TheFuture, ACORE Clean Energy Unemployment Reports

To understand the quality of employment opportunities within the clean energy sector, including a detailed analysis of wages and benefits, download the Clean Jobs, Better Jobs report here.

For policy recommendations from E2 on building America’s economy back better and faster through clean energy visit E2’s Build Back Better homepage.

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Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) is a national, nonpartisan group of business leaders, investors, and professionals from every sector of the economy who advocate for smart policies that are good for the economy and good for the environment. Our members have founded or funded more than 2,500 companies, created more than 600,000 jobs, and manage more than $100 billion in venture and private equity capital. For more information, see www.e2.org or follow us on Twitter at @e2org.

E4TheFuture works for clean, efficient and safe energy solutions. A nonprofit organization, we promote energy efficiency, renewables, demand management, energy storage and electric vehicles to advance climate protection and economic fairness. We work to achieve an energy economy that is sustainable, lower cost, and resilient. Our “Faces of EE” initiative shines a light on energy efficiency professionals nationwide. Visit www.E4TheFuture.org or follow us on Twitter at @E4TheFuture and @FacesofEE.

Founded in 2001, the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) is the nation’s premier pan-renewable organization uniting finance, policy and technology to accelerate the transition to a renewable energy economy. For more information, please visit www.acore.org.

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