Last week I viewed a Webinar by the Labor Market Information Training Institute (LMI). The subject of the presentation was Green Jobs: Definitions and Analysis, and in it, researchers in Michigan and California reviewed surveys that were being conducted in each of their respective states. The goal of conducting these surveys was to find out more about each state’s green job market. A brief snippet of the results is at the bottom, but first I discuss some points that stood out.
Before diving into the results themselves, I should note that both presenters stressed that the definition of a “green job” was not standardized when the surveys were started. Since then, standardization has apparently been worked out by the Work Force Information Council (report here), but at the time, these definitions did not exist; therefore, the California and Michigan committees came up with separate definitions of what makes a job “green.” Though the general idea of a green job is present in both definitions, without a common, specific definition, there are two important problems that arise when interpreting the results of both surveys.
First, having different definitions means that results from the California survey cannot be immediately compared to the results from the Michigan survey. Both surveys report how many green jobs exist in each state, but without a common definition of a green job, we really cannot determine which state is doing better.
Second, without specific definitions, some “green” qualifications end up seeming a little too broad. For example, in the California survey a company can qualify as having a green position if the job involves “[creating] products using natural materials.” Not only is this definition overly encompassing, but it leaves a substantial amount of wiggle room on the part of the companies filling out the survey. Without providing companies specific definitions, results get skewed as each company has to come up with their own ideas on what is “green.”
Despite these two problems, the general gist of the results can be seen, and some of the results are quite striking.
In Michigan, green jobs make up 3.4% of all private sector employment, and in California, this number is 3.3%. The surveys predict that a majority of green workers will be gathering their skills from on-the-job training as opposed to formal schooling. In addition, Michigan researchers conducting a separate analysis on a sample of green-related firms found that between 2005 and 2008, green-related firms increased their number of positions by 7.7% while over the same time period, Michigan’s private employment had a -5.4% growth rate.
As a new and necessarily innovative industry, the growth in the number of green jobs is encouraging. The high growth that green jobs have seen shows that new ventures and ideas are being pursued successfully in spite of what the larger economy is doing. Given the economic crisis, if these results are carried over at all into 2009, it would appear that Entrepreneurship in this industry is alive and well.
Furthermore, since much of the training for these jobs is informal (on-the-job), the jobs that are becoming available will be open to a large share of the labor market. As Bob Litan over at Growthology points out, while Wall Street has rebounded from the recession fairly quickly, the pace at which Main Street is recovering is quite slow. The existence of a growing industry with jobs available to a majority of Americans, such as many of these green jobs, will help America on its way to recovery.
· 6,400 responses of 13,000 firms given the survey
· 109,000 green jobs forming 3.4% of all private employment
· 68% of future training is predicted to be conducted informally.
· In a separate analysis, researchers found that from 2005 to 2008, green-related firms increased their number of positions by 7.7%.
· In the same time period, the number of private jobs decreased by 5.4%.
California Survey: (These results are preliminary. The survey is not 100% complete.)
· 9,000 responses
· 9.2% of employers report employees working on green products and services
· 3.3% of all workers are working on green products and services.
· 60% of current training was done on-the-job.
The full Michigan report can be found here.
The slides for the California presentation are here.
Both questionnaires can be found here.