U.S clean energy sector lost another 27,000 jobs in May — a new analysis of unemployment data

Renewable energy, including solar and wind, lost nearly 4,300 jobs in May.


KEY POINTS
  • 620,500 clean energy workers jobless since COVID-19 hit.
  • CA, FL, GA, TX, WA, MI among hardest-hit states.
  • Renewable energy, including solar and wind, lost nearly 4,300 jobs in May.

WASHINGTON, DC – As Congress this week begins debating economic stimulus support for the energy industry, a new analysis of unemployment data shows the biggest part of America’s energy economy – clean energy – lost another 27,000 jobs in May, bringing the total number of clean energy workers who have lost their jobs in the past three months to more than 620,500.

While May saw an improvement in new unemployment claims over March and April, the findings represent the sector’s third straight month of significant job losses across solar, wind, energy efficiency, clean vehicles, and other industries.



With coronavirus cases once again rising in many states and companies beginning to run out of the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) funding that has helped small businesses keep workers employed, the report increases concerns the sector will be unable to resume its economy-leading jobs growth in the short- or long-term without a significant policy response.

Given the size and scope of the clean energy industry, such a sustained loss would cast a pall on the nation’s overall economic recovery, according to the analysis of the Department of Labor’s May unemployment data from E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), E4TheFuture and the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE).

Prior to COVID-19, clean energy – including energy efficiency, solar and wind generation, clean vehicles, and related sectors – was among the U.S. economy’s biggest and fastest-growing employment sectors, growing 10.4% since 2015 to nearly 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. For comparison, coal mining employs about 47,000 workers.

The latest monthly analysis for the groups by BW Research Partnership runs contrary to recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports, which indicated that a more robust economic rebound was underway while also acknowledging misclassifications and serious reporting difficulties in its own data.

Industries Hit Hardest

According to the analysis, energy efficiency lost more jobs than any other clean energy sector for the third consecutive month in May, shedding about 18,900 jobs. These workers include electricians, HVAC technicians who work with high-efficiency systems, and manufacturing employees who make Energy Star appliances, LED lighting systems and efficient building materials.

Renewable energy, including solar and wind, lost nearly 4,300 jobs in May.

Clean grid and storage and clean vehicles manufacturing — including grid modernization, energy storage, car charging and electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle manufacturing — lost a combined 3,200 jobs in May.

The clean fuels sector lost more than 650 jobs in May.

Sector March Claims (adj) April Claims (adj) May Claims Total
Energy Efficiency 103,298 309,584 18,880 431,762
Renewables 23,739 71,705 4,272 99,717
Clean Vehicles 11,399 35,070 2,059 48,528
Grid & Storage 6,517 19,666 1,166 27,349
Clean Fuels 2,186 10,390 657 13,233
INDUSTRY TOTAL 147,139 446,416 27,035 620,590

States and Localities Hit Across Country

California continues to be the hardest-hit state in terms of total job losses, losing 4,313 jobs in May and more than 109,700 since the COVID-19 crisis began. Florida was the second hardest-hit state in May, losing an additional 2,563 clean energy jobs, while Georgia, Texas, Washington, and Michigan all suffered more than 1,000 job losses across the sector. An additional 12 states saw at least 500 clean energy unemployment filings, according to the latest analysis.

For a full breakdown of clean energy job losses in each state, along with a list of the hardest-hit counties and metro areas, see the full analysis here.

State March Claims (adj) April Claims (adj) May Claims Total Claims 
US TOTAL 147,139 446,416 27,035 620,590
California 27,583 77,815 4,313 109,712
Texas 5,965 25,170 1,709 32,844
Florida 3,963 25,949 2,563 32,475
Michigan 7,867 22,245 1,012 31,124
Georgia 1,909 25,282 1,741 28,932
North Carolina 9,124 17,138 955 27,217
Pennsylvania 8,283 12,780 571 21,634
Washington 5,646 14,433 1,163 21,242
New York 6,006 13,868 848 20,722
Ohio 6,929 12,879 612 20,420

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