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California's share of green jobs is just average, report says

March 22, 2012|By Don Lee

Reporting from Washington — California’s economy may not be as “green” as people think.

In the federal government’s first report breaking down so-called green energy employment in the country, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Thursday that California had 338,400 jobs associated with the production of green goods and services in 2010.

That’s more than any other state, but as a percentage of California’s overall employment, green jobs made up 2.3% of its total private and public payrolls. In the country as a whole, the BLS says, there were 3.1 million green jobs in 2010, which accounted for 2.4% for all employment.

Conventional thinking is that California, traditionally a leader in pushing for efficient cars and clean energy, has an outsized share of the nation’s green jobs. A 2009 report by Pew Charitable Trusts put California’s share of the nation's clean-energy jobs at 16.3% -- much higher than the 10.8% in the BLS report.  

Chris Lafakis, an economist at Moody’s Analytics who has been researching clean energy's role in the economy, said he was very surprised by the California percentage, but he noted that the difference could be in the way BLS defines green jobs.

By the BLS definition, green jobs are those in any industry that involves production of renewable energy; energy efficiency; pollution reduction and recycling; natural resources conservation; or education and training related to environmental compliance. This definition is broader than Pew’s, which used a different and more stringent industrial classification in determining green jobs.

In the BLS report, Vermont had the highest share of green jobs, at 4.4% of its overall payrolls, followed by the District of Columbia (3.9%) and Idaho (3.7%).

The BLS generated the report for 2010 using a sample of some 120,000 business and government establishments identified as potentially involved in green goods and service. There was no comparison with prior years, but other studies and reports from green-energy groups indicate these jobs are growing much more rapidly than other types of work.

“The clean energy economy is still in its infancy, which is why government support is crucial for it to flourish,” Lafakis said.

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