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July 18, 2018

Green Jobs Still a Small Fraction of the California Economy

The concept of green jobs has increasingly been used as a tool to justify a broad range of environmental policies in California. Take, for example, AB 32 and SB 32, which individually require significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Proponents of these expansive environmental mandates rely on claims that these regulations will be “cost-free” as expenses will be balanced by the number of increased “green” jobs.

Unfortunately, California’s vibrant ‘Green Economy’ is not what it seems. According to a recently released report from the California Center for Jobs and the Economy, factors such as miscounting of temporary jobs, inconsistent definitions of “green jobs” and reclassification of existing jobs give a false narrative about green job growth. This false impression is providing state policymakers with an inaccurate estimate of true green job growth and the strength and viability of the Green Economy. It also raises concerns about the ability of the Green Economy to create the jobs necessary to sustain California’s future economy.

The “California Green Jobs: An Updated Review” report details how California now has more than 17 million nonfarm jobs. Of that, there are only 171,300 new direct green jobs, a mere 1 percent of total jobs. Many studies have reclassified existing jobs with a “green” designation. If these reclassified jobs are taken into account, the number of jobs jumps to 361,300, still only 2.2 percent of the state’s job market.

Below are some additional key findings of the report:

•  Reclassification of existing jobs and inconsistent definition of “green jobs” overstates reality of Green Economy. Various federal, state and non-profit organizations have attempted to quantify green jobs, but with no consistent definition or metrics. Some estimates include reclassification of existing jobs, which leads to overestimating net job gain as a result of new state policy.

•  Most “green job” definitions rely heavily on reclassification of existing jobs. Beyond a lack of consistency, most studies seeking to define the Green Economy have simply reclassified existing jobs with a “green” nexus, which has significantly inflated the number of green jobs.

•  Current “green jobs” are just 2 percent of total nonfarm jobs in California. The total number of new direct jobs that can be directly connected to current state policies represent only 1 percent of total jobs in 2016.

•  Moving away from certain clean energy programs will further reduce green job estimates. Most current green job calculations include natural gas and other “clean energy” jobs that are no longer included in the regulations promoting a renewable Green Economy.

•  The current Green Economy is over-reliant on temporary construction jobs and is unsustainable for future middle-class growth. Most prior attempts to quantify green jobs include large segments from temporary jobs that may last a matter of weeks or several months, especially lower-wage service and short-term construction jobs. While state policymakers continue their attempts to transform the California economy and launch a green industry, a transition that is dependent on these short-term and lower-wage jobs will have a significant long-term impact.

To read the full report, visit