Green Jobs Count: Fewer than Before, Sillier than Ever
David Kreutzer /
Back in March, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released a study showing our economy had 3.1 million green jobs. Recently, it issued another green jobs study with a headlining number of 854,700 green jobs.
Don’t worry—the economy did not lose 2 million green jobs in three months. There were not 3.1 million green jobs to begin with. And there are not 854,700 green jobs now.
We have already analyzed the uselessness of the first study (here and here). Signs that the first study’s definition of “green” was questionable include:
- There were 33 times as many green jobs in the septic tank and portable toilet servicing industry as in the solar utility industry;
- More than 50 percent of all jobs in steel mills were green;
- There were more green jobs in school bus and employee transportation (160,896), trash collection (116,293), and used merchandise stores (106,865) than in either engineering services (100,847) or architectural services (71,891); and
- The acting commissioner of the BLS admitted that oil-industry lobbying could be considered a green job.
In the new study, as in the first, examination of the categories with the most green jobs leads to much head-shaking.
The single largest green job category is “janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners,” which had 56,700 green jobs. This is nearly 10 times as many green jobs as in “civil engineers,” which has the highest number of green jobs in the “architecture and engineering occupations” super category.
Second place (out of 54) goes to “heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers.” Third is “maintenance and repair workers, general.” Installing and repairing more efficient heating and cooling equipment would save energy and therefore make the job green. But these jobs have been around—and involved with installing newer and better equipment—for a long time. Their numbers have little if anything to do with green energy initiatives or subsidies.
Fourth on the list is “laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand.” We are taking suggestions on what green technologies and processes so occupy people who move freight by hand. When I worked in a warehouse, the other workers and I did spend most of our time saving energy, but it was our own energy. Does that count?
Fifth is “landscaping and groundskeeping workers.” It’s hard to argue this category is not “green,” especially in a traditional sense. The surprise is that only 3 percent are categorized as having green jobs. If all in this category were counted as green, the overall green-jobs total would nearly double. Again, these are not what we think of when the President lectures us on the good, new jobs of a clean energy future.
If they felt excluded by the definition of the No. 1 group, “maids and housekeeping cleaners” may find some solace in placing sixth. This puts them ahead of all the detailed categories under:
- Management occupations,
- Business and financial operations occupations,
- Architecture and engineering occupations,
- Life, physical, and social science occupations,
- Health care practitioners and technical occupations,
- Sales and related occupations,
- Office and administrative support occupations,
- Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations,
- Construction and extraction occupations, and
- Production occupations.
To their credit, the analysts at the BLS seem to have a sense of humor. The big joke, though, is claiming that the green jobs total means anything.