Clean Energy Unemployment Claims in COVID-19 Aftermath, August 2020

Nearly a half-a-million (490,300) clean energy employees remain out of work since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March.  Unfortunately for the clean energy sector, July’s anemic job growth continued through August as the sector added just 13,600 jobs in August,  according to the latest analysis of unemployment data by BW Research for E2, E4TheFuture, and the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE).

The 0.5% increase in jobs still leaves over 14% of the U.S. clean energy workforce unemployed despite widespread re-openings continuing and expanding across dozens of states. While August represents the third straight month of job growth for the industry after three months of devastating job losses, only one out of five jobs lost has returned while 23 states saw fewer than 100 added clean energy jobs in August.

Incorporating July’s revised figure of 10,400 added jobs, the sector’s current rate of growth since June’s short-lived surge when nationwide reopenings began is below job growth projections for 2020 before COVID-19. According to employer surveys conducted in late 2019, clean energy employers nationwide expected to add nearly 178,000 jobs in 2020 — or 14,800 every month.

While the August report shows some signs of growth, weekly unemployment claims remain at historic highs, and long-term and permanent unemployment rates continue to rise. With federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds all but exhausted, more layoffs could be imminent without congressional action.

Before March, clean energy had been one of the U.S. economy’s biggest and fastest-growing employment sectors, growing 10.4% since 2015 to 3.4 million jobs at the end of 2019. That made clean energy by far the biggest employer of workers in all energy occupations, employing nearly three times as many people as the fossil fuel industry.

By Industry Job Losses, August 2020

Sector March  April  May   June  July August Total 
Energy Efficiency -103,298 -309,584 -18,880 71,786 6,836 8,116 -345,024
Renewables -23,739 -71,705 -4,272 17,287 1,918 2,571 -77,942
Clean Vehicles -11,399 -35,070 -2,059 10,335 896 2,182 -35,116
Grid & Storage -6,517 -19,666 -1,166 4,561 428 482 -21,878
Clean Fuels -2,186 -10,390 -657 2,351 296 205 -10,381
INDUSTRY TOTAL -147,139 -446,416 -27,035 106,320 10,373 13,556 -490,341

States With Most Job Losses, August 2020

State Total Losses Percent of Clean Energy Workforce
California 84,439 15.30%
Georgia 27,058 31.30%
Florida 25,650 15.30%
Michigan 23,871 18.00%
Texas 23,406 9.50%
North Carolina 20,157 17.60%
Pennsylvania 18,290 18.80%
Washington 17,979 20.20%
Ohio 15,965 13.80%
New York 15,674 9.60%

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For a full breakdown of clean energy jobs losses in each state, download the full analysis here

Looking for More Info?

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 is a partner on the USEER, the fifth installment of the energy survey first released by the Department of Energy in 2016 and subsequently abandoned under the Trump administration. Clean energy jobs have grown every year since the first report was released in 2016.

If you are looking for additional insight into this report or E2’s more than a dozen other annual clean energy employment reports, visit e2.org/reports. You can also contact E2 Communications Director Michael Timberlake (mtimberlake@e2.org).

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