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

More than 620,000 U.S. clean clean energy workers have lost their jobs since March after 27,000 new workers filed unemployment claims in May, according to the latest analysis of unemployment data by BW Research for E2, E4TheFuture, and the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE).

The analysis of Department of Labor data found that 620,590 workers in clean energy occupations, representing 18.5% of the industry’s workforce, filed for unemployment benefits in March, April, and May. The number of jobs lost is more than double the number of clean energy jobs created since 2017.

While the speed at which clean energy jobs are being lost declined in May, there are increasing concerns about the number of energy-related jobs that are being supported by the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The majority of clean energy firms in the U.S. are small businesses, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Meanwhile, the construction sector (the largest segment of the clean energy economy) is the largest recipient of PPP loans, at more than 13 percent. The expiration of the employment window of PPP may result in a fresh round of layoffs in clean energy if there is no further intervention.

The continued job losses in May and forthcoming PPP expiration indicates it will be very tough for the clean energy sector to return to its economy-leading jobs growth without significant intervention from Congress and state governments. Given the size of the clean energy industry (nearly 3.4 million jobs in every state, pre-COVID-19) that could cast a pall over the nation’s broader economic recovery.

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, May 2020

Sector March Claims (adj) April Claims (adj) May Claims Total
Energy Efficiency 103,298 309,584 18,880 431,762
Renewables 23,739 71,705 4,272 99,717
Clean Vehicles 11,399 35,070 2,059 48,528
Grid & Storage 6,517 19,666 1,166 27,349
Clean Fuels 2,186 10,390 657 13,233
TOTAL 147,139 446,416 27,035 620,590

State With Most Job Losses, May 2020

State March Claims (adj) April Claims (adj) May Claims Total Claims 
US TOTAL 147,139 446,416 27,035 620,590
California 27,583 77,815 4,313 109,712
Texas 5,965 25,170 1,709 32,844
Florida 3,963 25,949 2,563 32,475
Michigan 7,867 22,245 1,012 31,124
Georgia 1,909 25,282 1,741 28,932
North Carolina 9,124 17,138 955 27,217
Pennsylvania 8,283 12,780 571 21,634
Washington 5,646 14,433 1,163 21,242
New York 6,006 13,868 848 20,722
Ohio 6,929 12,879 612 20,420

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

Download

The complete report is available for download at this link.

Listen

A live press conference was held announcing the report’s findings on June 15, featuring:

  • Bob Keefe, executive director, Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2);
  • Pat Stanton, director of policy, E4TheFuture;
  • Gregory Wetstone, president & CEO, American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE);
  • Phil Jordan, vice-president and principal, BW Research;

To download and listen to the one-hour press conference, click 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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