EFI releases 2020 energy sector jobs report

On Tuesday, April 6th, the Energy Futures Initiative (EFI) released Wages, Benefits, and Change, a major new report produced jointly with the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) and BW Research Partnership. The report, a supplement to the annual U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER), examines key characteristics of the U.S. energy workforce including wages across technologies and industry segments, the benefits workers receive, and the geographic distribution of employment.

“Wages, Benefits, and Change sheds new light on the role of energy jobs in the U.S. economy,” commented Ernest Moniz, former U.S. Secretary of Energy and founder of EFI, upon the report’s release. “Overall, the energy jobs sector grows faster, pays higher wages and benefits, and has been more resilient in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The report finds that between 2015 and 2019, U.S. energy jobs grew at almost twice the rate of the overall economy. The median hourly wage for these jobs is $25.60–34 percent higher than the national median hourly wage of $19.14. In April 2020, the peak of job losses during the COVID-19 pandemic, energy employment saw a 12% decline while the overall U.S. economy saw a decline of 20%.

These findings add a key layer of understanding to the U.S. energy workforce as policymakers and the private sector deploy efforts to transition to a low carbon economy and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. “Understanding the role of energy jobs in stimulating the U.S. economy and communities will be invaluable as policymakers at the local, state, and federal level address the impact of these changes to the energy system,” noted Moniz at the April 6th public briefing on the report. The bottom line, he said, “is that the series of jobs reports that we’ve worked on with NASEO and BW Research Partnership, including today’s wage report, provides a foundation for policy development and for planning by governments, labor, and business, as well as for analysis that underpins policy and planning.”

As part of the public briefing, EFI and NASEO convened a panel of state-level experts to discuss just transitions and job creation: Will Toor, Director of the Colorado Energy Office, Tamika Jacques, Ed.D., Director of Workforce Development at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, and Doreen Harris, President and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. David Althoff Jr., Director of the Energy Programs Office at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, moderated the discussion.

Panelists discussed the roles of their organizations in facilitating state energy and workforce goals, the challenges they’ve faced in doing so, and the approaches they’ve found key to success. Challenges noted by panelists included limited state resources and a need for more workers in key professions, such as building electrification. Themes of key approaches ran throughout the discussion: ensuring public participation, expanding career pathway awareness, deploying internship and apprenticeship programs, and building close partnerships with other agencies, labor unions, and higher education.

Wages, Benefits and Change, a fact sheet, and a slides presentation on key takeaways from the report can be downloaded here.

-Jordan Gallagher

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