President Obama speaks to guests during a visit to Argonne National Laboratory… (Scott Olson / Getty Images )
WASHINGTON -- Clean-energy jobs make up a small part of U.S. employment, but a new federal report shows they are growing much faster than other work, even healthcare.
The nation had about 3.4 million green energy jobs in 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Tuesday in its second annual and final look at this emerging category of employment. (More on why it's the last report later.)
In all, so-called green jobs accounted for just 2.6% of all employment that year, but a comparison with 2010 data shows that these jobs grew at four times the rate of all the others combined. Green employment jumped 4.9% in 2011 from the prior year. That compares with a gain of 1.2% for all jobs and 2.7% for restaurants, 1.7% for manufacturing and 1.8% for healthcare, which is often seen as the fastest-growing sector.
Green jobs of course cut across industries. By the BLS definition, they include work that is primarily involved in the production of green goods and services -- for instance, renewable energy, pollution reduction and recycling, and natural resources conservation. The agency also counts as green those jobs that involve education and training related to environmental compliance.
The growth in green jobs in 2011 parallels a surge in public and private money plowed into clean energy that year. Total investments in clean energy business and development jumped 42% in the U.S. in 2011 from the prior year, to $48 billion, according to an earlier report by Pew Charitable Trusts. That was more than any other country, with China and Germany not far behind.
The BLS study showed that California added 17,366 green jobs in 2011 for a total of 360,245. Both numbers are more than for any other state, but taking its larger population into account, California's growth rate in green jobs, and share of all such work nationwide, are only average.
It was Maryland, Oregon and New Hampshire that saw the biggest increase in the rate of new green jobs created in 2011.
Washington, D.C., meanwhile, beat out all states in the share of its total jobs that are green-related, at 5.1% in 2011.
But that may not last very long. The government, at all levels, accounts for about one-fourth of all clean-energy jobs nationwide, with federal workers providing a host of professional and technical services involving clean energy -- such as those at the BLS who prepared the green employment study.
Tuesday's report was only the second one of its kind, but the BLS said earlier that it would be the last, a casualty of the federal budget cuts under the so-called sequestration that took effect March 1.
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