More than 620,000 U.S. clean clean energy workers have lost their jobs since March, after 27,000 new workers filed unemployment claims in May, according to the latest analysis of unemployment data by BW Research for E2, E4TheFuture and the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE).
The analysis of Department of Labor data found that 620,590 workers in clean energy occupations, representing 18.5% of the industry’s workforce, filed for unemployment benefits in March, April and May. The number of jobs lost is more than double the number of clean energy jobs created since 2017.
While the speed at which clean energy jobs are being lost declined in May, there are increasing concerns about the number of energy-related jobs that are being supported by the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The majority of clean energy firms in the U.S. are small businesses, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Meanwhile, the construction sector (the largest segment of the clean energy economy) is the largest recipient of PPP loans, at more than 13%. The expiration of the employment window of PPP may result in a fresh round of layoffs in clean energy if there is no further intervention.
The continued job losses in May and forthcoming PPP expiration indicates it will be very tough for the clean energy sector to return to its economy-leading jobs growth without significant intervention from Congress and state governments.
Before March, clean energy had been one of the U.S. economy’s biggest and fastest-growing employment sectors, growing 10.4% from 2015 to 3.4 million jobs at the end of 2019. That made clean energy by far the biggest employer of workers in all energy occupations, employing nearly three times as many people as the fossil fuel industry.
Photo: E4TheFuture’s Energy Efficiency Job Losses map