Washington State Green Jobs Reports

offshore-wind-powerA summary of the Washington State Green Jobs Reports published between 2008 and 2011, written by Amrita Ghasghase, Seattle University MBA Candidate and WCTA Intern.

August 13, 2014 (Seattle, WA) – As directed by the Washington State Legislature, the Employment Security Department conducted a survey in 2008 to understand the scope of green jobs in Washington State.  This was followed by further surveys in 2009 and in 2011.

The 2008 survey targeted only private sector firms that most likely had “green jobs.”  Based on the findings of this survey, the 2009 survey was expanded to include the public sector.  Both the 2008 and 2009 surveys were conducted in industries that were presumed to be “green.”  The 2011 survey was expanded to all industries in the private and public sectors.  All data was self-reported by companies.

Defining and maintaining a scope for this project was difficult, especially since the scope of the industry has been a difficult one to define.  The surveys focused on four core areas:

  • Increasing energy efficiency,
  • Producing renewable energy,
  • Preventing and reducing environmental pollution, and
  • Providing mitigation or cleanup of environmental pollution

A two-page survey was mailed to targeted companies.  Green jobs were defined as follows:  “Green jobs are those jobs that promote environmental protection and clean energy.”  The jobs measured were self-identified by the employers.  The employers were asked to name job titles of employees who hold jobs related to the above four core areas.  They also mapped this data by workforce development areas (WDA) to give visual representation of areas of concentration.  They used Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes to identify the number of jobs based on job titles.

The top occupations for the year 2009 were agricultural workers, electricians, carpenters, construction laborers, HVAC installers, truck drivers, architects, etc.  While it is difficult to make direct comparisons between the 2008 and 2009 reports due to differences in populations targeted, some private sector industries can be used to make direct comparison with confidence (Find the report here, See Table 5).

The public sector was included in the survey for the first time in 2009.  The top occupations were within this sector included transit bus drivers, civil engineers, school bus drivers, etc.   (Find the report here, See Table 8).

All data requested in the surveys was from the previous three months only.  Secondary data was used to incorporate numbers and conclusions for the earnings report and the education and experience requirements.  This data was sourced from the Bureau of Labor statistics and Washington State Employment Security Division.

  • Some key data points are that total green jobs measured in the surveys increased from 99,319 in 2009, to 120,305 in 2011. Direct comparison is difficult to make since the number companies surveyed and responded increased from 13,000 employers in 2009 to ­­­14,298 in 2011.
  • The private sector showed an increase from 47,194 estimated green jobs in 2008 to 76,137 in 2009 and finally increasing to 104,955 in 2011.
  • The public sector showed a decline in green jobs in 2011. The number fell from 23,182 in 2009 to 15,350 in 2009. This could be primarily attributed to the recession and drop in number of jobs in government, construction, professional services, and technical sectors. An alternative theory mentioned in the report is that it could be due to the overall “greening” of products and services, which means that employers may not be identifying as many jobs as being uniquely “green” anymore.

This initiative had some strong merits.  It was a short and precise survey which helped improve the number of responses and clear conclusions and trends could be analyzed from them.  The consolidation of data was done using existing NAICS codes and SOC codes making to possible to maintain consistency.  This initiative came with its own set of challenges and many of their limitations rose from the ambiguity of definitions.

This report was prepared as required by the legislation.  There were certain metrics that the report could not provide confident support to such as family sustaining wages and benefits.  As the survey indicated that most of green jobs were similar to non-green jobs, the average wages account for all occupations including non – green jobs.  It is difficult to specify newly created jobs (as required by legislation) as the basis of data is new hires.  It is difficult to know for sure if these hires were for newly created green jobs or was it conversion of non-green jobs into green jobs.  Hence it is ambiguous.  There are many take-away from this initiative and it provides valuable insights for planning the next initiative concentrating on jobs in the clean technology sector.