3p Weekend: 7 Booming Job Sectors Fueling America’s Green Economy

Freer Water Control and Improvement District (FWCID) Manager Diana Adame tests for arsenic using a test strip.
Freer Water Control and Improvement District (FWCID) Manager Diana Adame tests for arsenic using a test strip.

With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

Before we get on to this week’s 3p Weekend, let’s pose a question: What is a green job? It’s a simple question but one that has no official answer. In March 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) took a crack at defining green jobs and calculating their saturation in the market in a detailed survey of the green economy. There are some limitations to their definition, but it’s consistent with most that came before it (and it makes sense to us for the most part). So, let’s decide to use it as our go-to for this list.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move on to the fun part: It’s tough to deny that the green jobs sector is making waves across the country, even as overall unemployment rates are slow to decline. BLS determined that green employment is growing at a faster rate than the overall economy, with no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

The saturation of green jobs is growing across all industries, but a select few are leading the charge. Read on for seven booming green job sectors set to explode in the 21st century. 

1. Water

The BLS reports that 50 percent of all jobs in the water industry are green jobs, which is pretty impressive if you ask us. As this sector continues to expand (comprising water supply and irrigationscarcity planning and managementtesting and research; the list goes on and on), job opportunities will likely grow right along with it. “With 21,500 green jobs and a nearly 50 percent green intensity, [the water industry] is undoubtedly significant to the broader green economy, yet it has room to grow,” BLS observed in its report.

2. Solar

2014 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. The U.S. added 56 new solar jobs a day for nearly all of 2013 — meaning solar employment grew at a rate 10 times the national average. Installers added the most solar workers over the past year, growing by 22 percent.

3. Manufacturing

Manufacturing may be in trouble in the U.S. as a whole, but green manufacturing is a different story. BLS found that 20.4 percent of all green jobs in the U.S. are in the manufacturing sector, although it represents only 10.8 percent of total employment. In a separate report on the green economy, Brookings Institute observed that, “The electric vehicles (EV), green chemical products, and lighting segments are all especially manufacturing intensive.” As consumer prices in these segments continue to drop, the green manufacturing sector seems poised to continue this upward climb.

4. Construction

Green jobs make up 6.3 percent of all jobs in the U.S. construction sector, according to BLS. This figure is fairly modest compared to other industries on this list, but it still represents nearly 400,000 green jobs. With sustainability becoming the name of the game when it comes to new building construction, green job numbers in this sector have nowhere to go but up.

5. Transportation

If you haven’t heard, people are using public transportation way more these days. In fact, Americans took a record 10.7 billion public transit trips in 2013, according to data released this week. Transportation options range from hybrid-electric buses, to car-sharing services, to expanding rail lines — leaving growth opportunities in the sector wide open. More than 200,000 people held green public transit jobs in 2012 — a trend that’s undoubtedly on the uptick.

6. Environmental engineering

Environmental engineers apply knowledge of biology and chemistry to tackle real-world challenges like pollution, recycling and urban planning. Although the BLS reported only 53,200 U.S. environmental engineering jobs in 2012, the sector carries hefty promise for growth. CNN Money named it one of the top 10 fastest growing industries, as well as their overall No. 5 best job.

7. Sharing economy entrepreneurship

Back in 2009, three friends founded a ridesharing service called Uber — now servicing 70 cities across the U.S. A year earlier, three guys named Nathan Blecharczyk, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia launched Airbnb — which now boasts more than 500,000 listings and recently attracted the talents of hospitality guru Chip Conley. Indeed, it’s a wide world out there for an entrepreneur with a great idea and the passion, work ethic and tireless resolve to make it reality. U.S. entrepreneurship has hit record highs in recent years, and with the sharing economy on the rise, entrepreneurs in this sector will likely see this boost continue.

Image credit: Flickr/USDAgov

Based in Philadelphia, Mary Mazzoni is an editor at TriplePundit. She is also a freelance journalist who frequently writes about sustainability, corporate social responsibility and clean tech. Her work has appeared on the Huffington PostSustainable BrandsEarth911 and The Daily Meal. You can follow her on Twitter @mary_mazzoni.

Mary Mazzoni

Based in Philadelphia, Mary Mazzoni is the senior editor of TriplePundit. She is also a freelance journalist with a passion for storytelling and sustainability. Her work has appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News, Earth911, the Huffington Post, Sustainable Brands and the Daily Meal.

Mary is a lifelong vegetarian with an interest in climate resilience, clean tech and social justice. You can contact her at mary@triplepundit.com.

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