Clean energy lost nearly half a million US jobs in April alone

Turbine blades await installation in Kansas in April.
Turbine blades await installation in Kansas in April.
Image: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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April was another crushing month for the US clean energy industry. In March, analysis by the advocacy and research group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) showed that the sector lost more than 100,000 jobs that month, and projected the number could climb over half a million by mid-year.

New figures released today show that projection has already been topped. Using updated federal unemployment data, E2 now estimates March job losses were closer to 150,000. And April was even uglier, with losses tripling to 447,200. Once again, the hardest-hit sub-sector was energy efficiency—i.e., people who work on green upgrades to buildings—which accounted for 70% of the losses. Renewables and electric vehicles also took major hits.

California suffered the highest losses of any state: Employment dropped by almost 78,000 jobs, mostly in Los Angeles. Georgia, Kentucky, Hawaii, and Louisiana saw the largest relative losses, each losing more than 20% of their clean energy workforces.

Overall, E2 now expects clean energy job losses to hit 850,000 by mid-year, wiping out a quarter of the country’s workforce.

If there’s a silver lining, it’s that based on this projection, the May figures should be a bit less brutal. Last week, the Treasury Department agreed to an extension of critical tax breaks for renewable energy projects, which should help spur activity in that sector. And on Tuesday, California officials agreed to let Tesla re-open its electric vehicle factory there.

But with most office buildings still closed, and the specter of an extended recession putting corporate and government discretionary spending on hold, it will likely be a while before those energy efficiency jobs are back on the market.