June Clean Energy Jobs Report Raises Questions Over Long-Term Recovery
For the past few months, the energy efficiency community has held its breath during the release of the clean energy unemployment analysis, published by E2, E4TheFuture, and other partners. The monthly report examines job losses in the clean energy sector due to COVID-19, and every month since March, energy efficiency has taken by far the largest hit. In March, almost 70,000 efficiency jobs were lost. In April, that number more than tripled, with an additional 310,200 efficiency workers put out of work. And in May, when many sectors started adding jobs back, losses in efficiency continued, for a cumulative total of 432,000.
This month’s report finally brought some welcome news. The report, released earlier today, shows an uptick with 71,800 jobs added back in June, or about a 4% gain. There was some variation among states; for example, Hawaii saw 6.8% growth, while New Hampshire saw just 1.5%.
We’re happy to see these numbers are no longer next to negative signs, but any optimism is tempered by significant uncertainty ahead and the sheer magnitude of the hole we’re in. There are still 360,000 energy efficiency workers unemployed: a full 15% of the workforce. For context, that’s nearly double the number of workers employed in the entire coal industry.
The report also adds to worries over how many of these job losses could be permanent. If cuts were a short-lived blip due to lockdowns and construction freezes, we would have seen a much larger surge in reemployment. Instead, only about one in six clean energy jobs lost have returned since states started reopening, raising concern over deeper damage to the economy. Additionally, the report cannot capture the full scope of losses, as workers who are temporarily furloughed or beneficiaries of the Paycheck Protection Program are not included in unemployment data. The end game for these temporary measures can’t yet be known.
Finally, the sad truth is that our country is still very much in the middle of a crisis. Virus cases reach new records almost every day, and we cannot bank on a quick return to “normal” taking care of our economy for us. Instead, deliberate and direct action is called for. We’re pressing Washington to take aggressive steps to build back the efficiency sector. Read about our four priority policy proposals here.
We’re calling on Congress to implement energy-efficient policy now to ensure that growth continues. Done right, we can get the 360,000 still-unemployed energy efficiency workers back on the job, place the sector back on the growth trajectory it was experiencing prior to the pandemic, and help create jobs for the 50 million total Americans who have filed unemployment claims since mid-March. These policies tackle the direct fallout of the crisis head-on, while also ensuring we build back better to create a more resilient country moving forward.