Energy sector job growth outpaces overall US economy, with strength in transportation, renewables: DOE

Source: By Robert Walton, Utility Dive • Posted: Tuesday, June 28, 2022

  • Energy jobs in the U.S. are growing faster than employment in the overall domestic economy, driven in particular by renewables and the development of clean transportation, according to a new analysis released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • Energy sector jobs grew 4% in 2021, while employment across all industries rose just 2.8% in the same time period, according to the 2022 U.S. Energy & Employment Report.
  • Not all energy sectors saw growth, however. Employment in the fuels technology sector, which includes gas, coal and petroleum, declined by more than 29,271 jobs, or about 3.1%. The coal industry saw the greatest percentage decline, shedding 7,125 jobs and reducing employment by 11.8%, while gas saw a small increase.

Dive Insight:

The annual energy jobs report captures a unique period in the U.S. economy, before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and with the Covid-19 recovery ongoing. It sketches out a new “starting gate” in the country’s efforts to build a skilled clean energy workforce, federal officials said.

“Notably, jobs in renewables, like solar and wind, outpaced economy-wide growth. And electric and hybrid vehicles posted a whopping 25% increase in employment,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a Monday call with reporters.

The United States is working to transform to a net-zero carbon economy by 2050, and Granholm said 41% of all energy jobs last year were oriented towards that goal. “The jobs are growing in industries we need to support a 100% clean power sector, like energy efficiency, transportation and storage,” she said.

“What this year’s data shows is clean energy remains one of America’s best bets,” Bob Keefe, executive director of E2, a national, nonpartisan business group, said in a statement. The jobs report illustrates the opportunity ahead of the United States and the work to be done by lawmakers, he said.

“There is no other sector that exists in every state that comes with this sort of job growth potential,” Keefe said. “The message to members of Congress is clear. If you want good-paying jobs in your state and district, you should be supporting climate and clean energy policies.”

In total, the U.S. energy sector added more than 300,000 jobs in 2021, increasing by 4% to more than 7.8 million. For perspective, DOE said that from 2015 to 2019 energy employment grew about 3% annually.

In 2020, the economic fallout from Covid-19 cost the energy sector nearly 840,000 jobs.

“While the energy sector as a whole has not recovered all of the jobs lost in 2020, nearly all technologies added energy jobs in 2021,” the jobs report said. The notable exception is the fuels category, where the report showed a 3.1% decline in jobs. However, employment in the gas segment of the power generation sector rose 1.6% in 2021.

Large percentage increases in 2021 U.S. energy sector employment include 4.9% in smart grids, 4.4% in batteries and 5.4% in the solar sector.

Jobs related to carbon-free or low-carbon motor vehicles and their components grew a collective 25%, led by 26.2% growth in electric vehicle jobs, according to the report.

“In fact, jobs in electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid vehicles, and hybrid vehicles were among the only subcategories of any type of energy jobs that rose in numbers from 2019 to 2021 and that did not decrease from 2019 to 2020,” the report said.

The report “helps us understand, at a granular level, what the president means when he says that when he sees climate, he sees jobs,” White House Deputy National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi told reporters on Monday.

The White House on Tuesday announced multiple companies have committed to invest a combined $700 million to grow the U.S. ability to produce about 250,000 EV chargers annually. That will add at least 2,500 jobs around the country, Zaidi said on Monday, adding that the White House sees “tremendous opportunity” in the sector.

Energy efficiency added almost 58,000 jobs in 2021. The sector was particularly hard-hit by Covid-19 in 2020, and saw a loss of more than 270,000 jobs. Growth last year was slower than the energy sector as a whole, though some technologies grew faster. Traditional heating, ventilation, and air conditioning added 17,740 jobs and grew by 3.3%, according to the report.

“Despite modest gains in 2021 … job gains in energy efficiency still outpaced job growth in U.S. employment overall, and the sector remains one of the largest energy technology groups with over 2.1 million workers,” the DOE report said.