Understanding “Green Jobs”
March 1, 2010
The U.S. economy has lost over 7 million jobs in the past two years and has a 9.7 percent unemployment rate.1 Despite signs of economic recovery, job creation has been slow going and it will probably take many years for the United States to return to previous employment levels. Growing public dissatisfaction about the “jobless recovery” has put the current political focus squarely and intensely on job creation. Green jobs have emerged as one possible avenue for creating new jobs and economic opportunity during a period of high unemployment. The need to transition away from carbon based fuels in order to combat climate change and find alternative sources of energy to provide greater energy security is seen by many as a transformative economic opportunity with the potential to revitalize U.S. economic competitiveness and create new jobs. On the flip side, like many job creation strategies, green jobs are seen by some as a strategy that is being oversold to the American public, a more expensive route for new job creation, and not capable of bringing about the scope or scale of economic transformation or job growth envisioned by green job advocates. Most of the studies conducted thus far have been done by those who advocate for or against green jobs and are therefore biased. As interest in green jobs grows (indeed many countries around the world are employing similar green job strategies), however, so too will the need to study and understand green job trends. The following is a preliminary survey of a sampling of green job studies and key questions surrounding the green jobs debate.