The green economy often is cited as a key driver of the national economic recovery. At the very least, it is creating jobs. The total number of jobs related to green products and services in 2010 was 3.13 million, according to the first-ever green jobs report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics last week. However, to put things in perspective, these jobs accounted for only 2.4% of the country’s total employment that year.
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In many states, jobs associated with the production of green goods and services represented a slightly larger share of employment. In 11 states, green jobs accounted for 3% or more of total jobs. Vermont had the highest proportion of clean economy jobs at 4.4%. Green jobs in these states are represented in many sectors, including manufacturing and construction.
Although the states with the greatest numbers of green jobs relative to total employment vary in many ways, they share several characteristics. Many of these states have among the highest rates of public land — land owned by federal and state governments. Colorado, Idaho and Alaska have among the highest rates of public land in the country, which allows for conservation and conservation related jobs to flourish.
The states with the highest proportion of green jobs also tend to have below-average unemployment rates. As of January 2012, the national unemployment rate stood at 8.3%. Only one of the states with the most green jobs had a higher unemployment rate; two states had the same rate; and the remaining seven states had lower unemployment rates than the national average. Vermont had an unemployment rate of just 5% — among the lowest in the country.
Of course, this is not to suggest that green jobs are improving the unemployment situation in these areas. Instead, these states may simply do a good job of promoting job growth in general — including green jobs.
24/7 Wall St. examined the BLS report to identify the 10 states with the greatest number of green jobs as a percentage of total jobs in the state. Green jobs are those found “in businesses that produce goods and provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources.” Data on green job growth by state from 2003 to 2010 were taken from the Brookings Institution’s “Sizing the Clean Economy: A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment.”
These are the states where green jobs thrive.
10. New York > Green jobs as percentage of total: 3% > Green jobs in private sector as percentage of total: 1.9% > Unemployment rate: 8.3%
New York’s clean economy is driven primarily by its public mass transit segment, which employs 56,500 people. This is more than twice as many jobs as the state’s second-largest green segment, waste management and treatment. Although it only employs around 500 people, New York’s wind energy sector is the state’s fastest-growing, with job growth of 96.8% from 2003 to 2010. In 2010, 6.3% of all jobs in the Albany metropolitan area were green — the largest share of any large metropolitan area in the U.S. A few of the state’s major private green employers are Cpower, MTI Microfuel Cells and Novomer.
9. Washington > Green jobs as percentage of total: 3.3% > Green jobs in private sector as percentage of total: 3% > Unemployment rate: 8.3%
Washington has nearly 92,000 green jobs, the vast majority of which are in the private sector. Although there is n0 one segment that dominates the state’s green industry, the largest areas of employment are conservation, hydropower and organic food and farming. The fastest growing sector in the state is renewable energy services, which has had a job growth of more than 69% from 2003 to 2010, primarily centered in Seattle. A few major employers in the state are wind energy company Gear Works Seattle, green construction services company McKinstry and sustainable forestry products company Weyerhaeuser (NYSE: WY).
8. Pennsylvania > Green jobs as percentage of total: 3.3% > Green jobs in private sector as percentage of total: 3.1% > Unemployment rate: 7.6%
Green job growth in Pennsylvania is slower than the national average growth of clean economy jobs. Public mass transit is the largest green segment for employment in the state, employing nearly 25,000 people. Other major employment areas include waste management and treatment and conservation. Environmentally friendly lighting is the fastest growing sector, with a growth rate of 68.1% from 2003 to 2010. Major companies include energy-saving consumer products company Lutron Electronics and energy services company Mechanical Operations.
7. Colorado > Green jobs as percentage of total: 3.3% > Green jobs in private sector as percentage of total: 3% > Unemployment rate: 7.8%
Colorado’s clean economy has grown at nearly twice the rate of the nation’s between 2003 and 2010. Now, more than 72,000 state residents have green jobs. Conservation is the largest segment for green jobs, although companies like Ball Aerospace & Technologies have helped make fuel cells the fastest growing green sector. The Colorado Springs metropolitan area has among the country’s highest rates of clean economy jobs that are green collar. Green collar is defined by Brookings as jobs “with moderate wages and moderate educational requirements in production, installation, maintenance, transportation, construction, social services, office support, or protective services.”
6. Oregon > Green jobs as percentage of total: 3.4% > Green jobs in private sector as percentage of total: 2.9% > Unemployment rate: 8.8%
Although Oregon is one of the nation’s top green jobs employers, job growth in the clean economy has leveled off since 2007, despite national green job growth increasing. The state is a major center for organic food production, as well as green building materials and sustainable forestry products. Major companies in the state include Columbia Forest Products and Valley Fresh Foods.
5. Montana > Green jobs as percentage of total: 3.5% > Green jobs in private sector as percentage of total: 2.4% > Unemployment rate: 6.5%
Montana has among the largest share of green jobs in the public sector. The state has a particularly large amount of public lands, such as state parks, which allow for a large amount of jobs in solar PV, or photovoltaic systems, and hydropower. The largest clean economy sector, however, is conservation. Two of the state’s largest employers are the National Park Service and Forest Service.
4. Maryland > Green jobs as percentage of total: 3.6% > Green jobs in private sector as percentage of total: 2.8% > Unemployment rate: 6.5%
Clean economy job growth in Maryland has largely mirrored that of the U.S. between 2003 and 2010. Waste management and treatment and conservation are the state’s largest green sectors. The fastest growing segment is solar energy, which has had a job growth rate of nearly 64% from 2003 to 2010. Some of the state’s major clean economy employers are environmental services companies Century Engineering, Kci Holdings and Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson.
3. Alaska > Green jobs as percentage of total: 3.6% > Green jobs in private sector as percentage of total: 2.8% > Unemployment rate: 7.2%
More than 89% of Alaska is owned by federal and state governments. Not only does the state’s clean economy account for a particularly large share of total employment, but its job growth rate from 2003 to 2010 has been significantly greater than the national average. The largest segment in the state’s green economy is by far conservation, as it employs more than five times the people as the second-largest segment. Major employers include the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
2. Idaho > Green jobs as percentage of total: 3.7% > Green jobs in private sector as percentage of total: 2.8% > Unemployment rate: 8.1%
Idaho is another state with a large amount of land — nearly 67% — owned by either the state or federal government. The largest segment of the state’s clean economy is conservation, followed by the production of energy-saving building materials and hydropower. A few of the state’s major green companies are Boise Cascade, Power Engineers and Windsor Window.
1. Vermont > Green jobs as percentage of total: 4.4% > Green jobs in private sector as percentage of total: 3.9% > Unemployment rate: 5.0%
Vermont is the country’s largest center for green job employment relative to its entire workforce by a substantial margin. Additionally, of the nearly 13,000 green jobs in the state, more than 9,000 are in the private sector. The state’s primary sectors of employment are organic food production and farming and, to a lesser extent, green building materials. It is not clear whether Vermont will maintain its position as the nation’s green leader. Job growth in the clean economy has increased at a slower rate than the national level between 2003 and 2010.