A quick but notable note from last week: According to the Department of Labor, green jobs accounted for 2.4 percent of total employment in 2010, or 3.1 million jobs. Not too shabby. This statistic, contained in a larger report, represents the first attempt of the Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics to quantify environmentally friendly jobs.
Most of these jobs, as it turns out, come from the private sector; only 860,000 come from the public side. Furthermore, private-sector manufacturing accounted of the largest share of green jobs, a good sign for growth and investment in the green arena. Of course, most of these jobs were located in the state that’s leading the way in green efforts: California. Proudly, D.C. was near the top of the list when considering the proportion of green jobs relative to total employment, with green jobs constituting 3.9 percent of overall employment (Vermont led here with 4.4 percent of its total employment relating to green jobs).
You may be asking yourself at this point, “What exactly constitutes a green job?” Good question. As it turns out that that definition isn’t straightforward as we might hope. For this report, BLS developed a two-part definition for sorting out which jobs qualified as green. Part one counted what they named “output based-jobs.” This encompassed jobs that produced goods and services to either benefit the environment or conserve natural resources. This means something such as producing solar panels. Part two counted “process-based jobs” that make an enterprise more environmentally friendly or use fewer resources. So bringing someone on board to compost your leftover food stuffs (call them Captain Compost) is an idea of what BLS means with this. For purposes of this report, BLS used only the first definition; a part two report based on the second definition is due out later this year.
Businessweek made an interesting notation worth repeating here: By using these definitions, energy like nuclear is considered environmentally beneficial because it does not emit greenhouse gases. But, producing a bike on the other hand is not deemed beneficial because the ways in which the bike is produced are generally not environmentally friendly, even if it is used by someone in lieu of using a car.
It’s also important to note, as the Washington Post did, that it is hard to use any of this data to reflect on the President’s green/clean job initiatives. This is a very true point—these jobs may have very well been in the pipeline before President Obama came into office. It’s also hard to go around surveying companies/governments, etc. and say, “By the way, did the Section 1603 Treasury grant program help you out? Or was it your region’s SREC program?” It’s also hard to quantify what goes into making an organic tomato or even a solar panel (do you count the person who produced the parts that were then purchased to be used by the solar company to then make the panel?). Being ever so optimistic, I am tempted to point out that this 3.1 million, with more to come this summer, could mean that the President’s goal of 5 million jobs may…actually…be…met. How often does a politician actually make good on a goal?