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2020 ends with 429,000 fewer Americans employed in clean energy

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The hard-hitting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the US clean energy industry reached the end of 2020 with the fewest number of workers employed in the sector since 2015 and a decline in jobs compared to the previous year.
2020 ends with 429,000 fewer Americans employed in clean energy

About 16,900 jobs were added in December by US clean energy businesses, leaving more than 429,000 (12 percent of the sector’s pre-COVID-19 workforce) still unemployed, according to the latest analysis of federal unemployment filings prepared for E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), E4TheFuture and the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) by BW Research Partnership.

Ten months after the nationwide unemployment crisis began, 70 percent of the jobs lost in the clean energy sector have yet to be recovered, according to the monthly report. At the rate of recovery since June, it would take about two and a half years for the clean energy sector to reach pre-COVID employment levels. It would take an additional year to reach the levels of clean energy employment that had been projected for 2020 before the pandemic struck.

Impacts of the pandemic-fueled job crisis continue to disproportionately impact women and Black and Hispanic workers. Women - particularly women of colour—and Hispanic workers lost jobs overall in December despite total clean energy employment growing slightly, at a rate of 0.6 percent.

"The new year, a new administration and a new Congress bring new hope for federal action revitalising our economy and our environment with a clean energy focused recovery" said Bob Keefe, Executive Director of E2. "The need to act is clear: We just lived through the costliest year ever for climate disasters. And facing the largest economic downturn since 2009, we know we’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to jobs and other economic benefits that come with clean energy. Washington must go big, go fast and go now.”

Pat Stanton, Policy Director for E4TheFuture, added that what was witnessed in December was more like inertia than recovery for clean energy sector employment and that the sector has a lot of work to do.

No clean energy employment sector grew by more than 0.7 percent in December. Energy efficiency saw the strongest employment growth, adding 12,300 jobs. It was followed by renewable energy (2,700) and clean transmission, distribution and storage (750).

Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia are still suffering double-digit unemployment in clean energy, with 12 states experiencing unemployment of 15 percent or more. Georgia continues to have the highest rate, with over 30 percent of its clean energy workforce still unemployed, followed by Kentucky at 27 percent. In December, Hawaii had the sector’s highest growth rate at 1.2 percent while California again saw the largest total increase in jobs with 3,300 positions added (0.7 percent). Florida, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, and Texas all added more than 600 jobs, while 15 states added fewer than 100 each.

The data analysed for the report did not include workers who had their work hours slashed and are now significantly underemployed.

For additional information:

American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE)

Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2)

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