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Washinton, DC — Nearly 600,000 U.S. clean energy workers have lost their jobs since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic after 447,208 new workers filed unemployment claims in April— tripling the claims filed in March. That’s according to a new analysis of unemployment data released by E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), E4TheFuture, and BW Research Partnership.

The analysis of Department of Labor data found that 594,347 workers in clean energy occupations, representing 17.8% of the industry’s workforce, filed for unemployment benefits in April and March. The number of jobs lost is more than double the number of clean energy jobs created since 2017. Before March, clean energy had been one of the U.S. economy’s biggest and fastest-growing employment sectors, growing 10.4% since 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.

In the coming months, the analysis projects that job losses will continue to rise unless Congress and the Trump administration take quick and substantive action to support the clean energy industry and its workers. If nothing is done, the report forecasts that 850,000 clean energy workers will have filed for unemployment by June 30.

A loss of that magnitude would mean that one out of every four clean energy workers employed at the start of 2020 will have lost their jobs in just six months.

“It’s a lot worse that we thought. Americans in every state – red, blue, purple – are losing clean energy jobs across a wide swath of occupations – electricians, technicians, installers and factory workers,” said Bob Keefe, executive director of the national, nonpartisan business group E2 “Congress needs to include clean energy in any future economic stimulus package to help stem this massive loss of jobs today and set the foundation for a stronger, cleaner and more resilient economy tomorrow.”

Industries Hit Hardest

Sector March Claims (adj*) April Claims Total Claims
Energy Efficiency 103,298 310,188 413,486
Renewables 23,739 71,835 95,574
Clean Vehicles 11,339 35,101 46,501
Grid & Storage 6,517 19,685 26,202
Clean Fuels 2,186 10,398 12,584
INDUSTRY TOTAL 147,139 447,208 594,347

According to the unemployment data analysis, energy efficiency lost more jobs than any other clean energy sector for the second consecutive month in April. The energy efficiency sector accounted for nearly 70% of all clean energy job losses in April, with more than 310,000 energy efficiency workers filing for unemployment.

Renewable energy lost nearly 13% of its workforce, with more than 71,800 unemployment filings in April. There are now nearly 100,000 renewable energy workers out of work since March. If trends continue, more than one out of every five renewable energy workers will soon be jobless.

Both the clean grid and storage sector and the clean vehicles sector lost 14% of their workforces in April, losing 54,700 jobs combined. In total, those sectors have lost 26,200 and 46,500 jobs, respectively.

The clean fuels sector lost the largest percentage of its workforce among all clean energy industries, losing 10,400 jobs in April, or 26% of its workforce. Since March, the sector has lost 12,500 jobs or more than one-third of its workforce.

States and Localities Hit Across Country

California continues to be the hardest hit state in terms of total job losses, losing 77,900 jobs in April alone and more than 100,000 since the crisis began. Texas, Michigan, Florida, and Georgia also had a high total of clean energy unemployment filings in April, with each state experiencing more than 22,000 job losses. An additional 23 other states had at least 5,000 clean energy unemployment filings, according to the new analysis.

While Kentucky, Hawaii, and Louisiana all saw job losses exceed 25% of their clean energy workforces,

no state was hit harder in terms of total number and share of its clean energy workforce than Georgia. In addition to suffering the fifth most total job losses, the state lost 31% of its clean energy workforce — the highest percentage of any state and double the national average of 15%.

For a full breakdown of clean energy jobs losses in each state, see the full analysis here.

State March Claims (adj.*) April Claims Total Claims
US TOTAL 147,139 447,208 594,347
California 27,583 77,860 105,443
Texas 5,965 25,227 31,192
Michigan 7,867 22,284 30,150
Florida 3,963 25,915 29,878
Georgia 1,909 25,251 27,161
North Carolina 9,124 17,293 26,417
Pennsylvania 8,283 12,810 21,093
New York 6,006 14,398 20,405
Washington 5,646 14,593 20,239
Ohio 6,929 12,869 19,798

Local Economies Hit

April’s edition of the analysis expanded to include losses by metropolitan areas and counties. By total job losses, five counties lost more than 5,000 clean energy jobs in April alone, including Los Angeles County, Calif.; King County, Wash.; Harris County, Texas; San Diego County, Calif.; and Cook County, Ill. As a share of their workforces, California and Georgia counties suffered the most, with four counties in each state losing at least 23% of their clean energy jobs.

The metro areas that lost the cleanest energy jobs in April were metro areas with the largest populations and economies, including Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago. Metro areas that were hit hardest as a share of their workforce varied more, with Cleveland, Las Vegas, New Orleans, and Pittsburgh all losing at least 18% of their clean energy jobs.

Derick Lila
Derick is a Clark University graduate—and Fulbright alumni with a Master's Degree in Environmental Science, and Policy. He has 8+ years of solar industry research, marketing, and content strategy experience.

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