The state of employment in the US clean energy economyS. Himmelstein | April 21, 2021
In 2020, the number of clean energy jobs in the U.S. declined for the first time since E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs) began tracking nationwide employment across this sector in 2015. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic contraction and the lingering impacts of policies from the previous administration that encouraged fossil fuels over clean energy, nearly 307,000 jobs were lost in wind, solar, energy efficiency and other clean energy sectors.
Analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and supplemental national surveys reveals about 3 million Americans worked in clean energy at the end of 2020, down from 3.36 million the year before. Energy efficiency jobs saw the biggest drop, declining about 11% over the year as workers were prevented from entering homes and offices because of the pandemic lockdowns. However, energy efficiency accounts for an even greater share of U.S. construction jobs, employing about one in every five construction workers nationwide. Other clean energy sectors also saw significant declines in 2020, including renewable energy (6%), grid and storage (7%), and clean fuels (7%).
Several clean energy sectors did see job gains in 2020, including wind energy, which added about 2,000 jobs. Clean vehicle manufacturing jobs defied overall energy sector job loss patterns and grew nearly 3% as automakers increasingly shifted to cleaner and more efficient electric cars, trucks and buses. Electric and hybrid electric vehicle employment grew more than 6% adding over 12,000 new jobs in 2020, the biggest increase of any clean energy category.
Despite the setbacks, clean energy jobs rebounded quicker than overall nationwide workforce. Clean energy jobs grew about 11% since May, compared to less than 9% growth in the national workforce during the same period.