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How the Government Looks at Green Jobs

RP Siegel | Friday October 15th, 2010 | 1 Comment

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an agency of the US Department of Labor has been given the responsibility and funding for the collection and implementation of data on green jobs. After considerable study they arrived at a formal definition which states that green jobs are either:

  • Jobs in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources.  (Output), or
  • Jobs in which workers’ duties involve making their establishment’s production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources. (Process).

The reason for this study was that the very idea of green jobs does not fit in to the two existing job classification systems, the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC). Because green jobs are and will continue to be the subject of numerous policy discussions, it is important to be able to track them in order to best understand the implications of the green economy. According to the announcement of the study back in March:

“The resulting information will assist policymakers in planning policy initiatives and understanding their impact on the labor market, and will facilitate the monitoring of labor market developments related to protecting the environment and conserving natural resources.”

As you can see from the above definition, jobs are considered green by virtue of their output, as in green goods and services, or by virtue of the processes used.

For the output portion of the study, BLS will collect data on jobs associated with producing green goods and services through a mail survey of a sample of establishments identified as potentially producing such products and services based on their NAICS classification. The purpose of the Green Goods and Services (GGS) survey is to identify whether the establishment is producing any green goods and services and, if so, to measure the number of associated jobs in the establishment.

The work to determine who shall receive these surveys identified 333 industries (with associated NAICS codes). For those interested, the list can be found here. It includes anything from potato farming, to water and sewer system construction, carpet and rug mills, newspaper publishers, and securities and commodities exchanges, all of which are considered to be within the GGS scope. Based on these categories, it was determined that some 2.15 million establishments that could potentially provide green goods or services. The breakdown of these categories is as follows:

Construction                                              31.0%

Professional and business services                 36.2%

Other services                                             8.5%

Natural resources and mining                          4.1%

Information                                                  3.6%

Manufacturing                                              3.6%

Trade, transportation, and utilities                   2.3%

Public administration                                      2.0%

Education and health services                         1.2%

All other sectors                                           0.5%

To find these, BLS cross-referenced the job classifications against any economic activities that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources. These would include:

  • Renewable energy
  • Energy efficiency
  • Greenhouse gas reduction
  • Pollution reduction and cleanup
  • Recycling and waste reduction
  • Agricultural and natural resource conservation
  • Education, compliance, public awareness and training

For the process portion of the study, BLS is developing a special employer survey to collect data on jobs associated with the use of environmentally friendly production processes. Those surveyed will be asked whether they employ any workers whose duties are related processes and practices such as:

  • Conducting research and development of processes to conserve energy or natural resources or to reduce pollution (for example, a chemical engineer who develops a chemical manufacturing process that results in lower air pollution emissions),
  • Planning, implementing, and monitoring of these processes (for example, a worker who operates renewable energy generation equipment to produce electricity for use within the establishment),
  • Maintaining or installing equipment or infrastructure associated with the processes (for example, a control valve installer in a manufacturing plant who installs systems that reduce water pollution emissions), and
  • Measuring and controlling outputs of the process (for example, a chemical technician who tests air samples for pollution emissions levels).

To me, this information raised my awareness of just how broad the green job category can be and how different kinds of places one might look to find one. Will BLS be able to get an highly accurate count? Probably not, because I expect that a lot of jobs involve doing green things one day and other things the next. Still, if employers are able to come up with reasonable estimates to cover this type of thing, this will be a worthwhile effort.

RP Siegel is the co-author of Vapor Trails. Like airplanes, we all leave behind a vapor trail. And though can we can easily see others’, we rarely see our own.

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  • http://www.thegreenjobbank.com Bernard Ferret

    From these numbers it’s absolutely obvious that the government should provide incentives to buyers in the top 2 categories (67.2% of businesses) in its efforts to create green jobs. Instead, the government is spending billions helping the manufacturing sector that represents only 3.6% of these businesses.
    It’s also economics 101 that creating demand (not supply) is the best way to stimulate the economy.