When it comes to job creation, it appears that the U.S. economy has undergone radical change over the past couple of decades as the full extent of neoconservative economic, trade and tax policies, along with rapid technological change, have been more fully realized.
Historically wide and growing disparities in wealth and income in developed and developing countries alike was a focal point of discussion for the world’s super-wealthy at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, while the need to create more and better jobs and economic opportunities for all Americans was the theme of President Obama’s State of the Union (SOTU) address Tuesday evening.
The potential to spur sustainable, well-paying job growth – as well as lasting environmental and social benefits – has been one of the principal reasons the president has espoused policies and legislation that promote and foster development of renewable energy and clean technology. Though policies, legislation and regulations aimed at fostering “green” job growth have been criticized, refuted, opposed and undermined, the latest report from the Solar Foundation reveals that the U.S. solar energy sector continues to create jobs at a much higher rate than the economy overall.
56 new U.S. solar jobs a day — for over a year
Nearly 24,000 Americans got jobs in the U.S. solar industry in 2013, bringing the total number of U.S. solar industry jobs to 142,698 as of November 2013, according to the Solar Foundation’s, “National Solar Jobs Census 2013.”
Employment in the U.S. solar industry has been rising at a nearly 20 percent rate since 2012, 10 times faster than that for average national employment, according to the Solar Foundation’s report. The U.S. solar energy sector added an average 56 new employees a day between September 2012 and November 2013, surpassing forecasts.
Among other key takeaways from this year’s report:
- Seventy-seven percent of the nearly 24,000 new solar workers since September 2012 are new jobs, rather than existing positions that have added solar responsibilities, representing 18,211 new jobs created.
- This comparison indicates that since data were collected for Census 2012, one in every 142 new jobs in the U.S. was created by the solar industry, and many more were saved by creating additional work opportunities for existing employees.
- Installers added the most solar workers over the past year, growing by 22 percent — an increase of 12,500 workers.
- Solar employment is expected to grow by 15.6 percent over the next 12 months, representing the addition of approximately 22,240 new solar workers. Forty-five percent of all solar establishments expect to add solar employees during this period.
- Employers from each of the solar industry sectors examined in this study expect significant employment growth over the next 12 months, with nearly all of them projecting percentage job growth in the double-digits.
- Approximately 91 percent of those who meet our definition of a “solar worker” (those workers who spend at least 50 percent of their time supporting solar-related activities) spent 100 percent of their time working on solar.
- Wages paid by solar firms are competitive, with the average solar installer earning between $20.00 (median) and $23.63 (mean) per hour, which is comparable to wages paid to skilled electricians and plumbers and higher than average rates for roofers and construction workers. Production and assembly workers earn slightly less, averaging $15.00 (median) to $18.23 (mean) per hour, slightly more than the national average for electronic equipment assemblers.
- The solar industry is a strong employer of veterans of the U.S. Armed Services, who constitute 9.24 percent of all solar workers – compared with 7.57 percent in the national economy. Solar employs a slightly larger proportion of Latino/Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander workers than the overall economy.
The message embedded in the Solar Foundation’s report should bolster the president’s push to address climate change, as well as promote further growth in U.S. renewable energy and clean technology, and help address the growing gaps in income, wealth and economic opportunity in U.S. society. As Oakland NGO Green For All stated on its blog,
“One of the best ways President Obama can open doors of opportunity for those who most need it is by connecting his economic vision to his climate agenda. The president’s proposed expansion of truly clean sources of energy like solar and wind power, energy efficiency, and clean vehicles not only fight climate change—they can create good, high-wage employment. Jobs in the green economy, like manufacturing and installing solar panels, tend to pay more while requiring less formal education. That’s a recipe for helping Americans on the edge escape poverty.”
Images courtesy of The Solar Foundation