Green and Growing

Green Jobs in the United States

Published on Feb 15, 2022

Updated on Oct 5, 2023

Written by Lightcast

The green economy is something that is difficult to define. Is it just green energy production? Is it recycling and carbon footprint reduction? In an ongoing joint project with WorkingNation, we have set out to both define and quantify green jobs, for now and the near future.

To define green jobs, we combine industry, occupation, skill, and keyword analysis. This methodology allows us to find not only the jobs that are obviously green, like those who work on wind turbines and solar panels, but also those that are less obviously so. We divide jobs into four groups, based on the characteristics of each job.

The passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in late 2021 suggests that green jobs will rise to support new projects funded by the legislation. Understanding the current state of the green economy and green jobs now will inform how employers, workers, and policymakers prepare for the future needs of the green economy.

Green jobs of all types have been on the rise in the United States since 2018, with the initial disruptions of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 only slightly denting the number of job postings.

We estimate that there are already 1,019,203 workers in the United States in core, enabled, and enabling green jobs. We expect core green jobs to grow by an estimated 5.7% in the next five years. Not only are green jobs projected to grow, but they have the potential to be lucrative for employees. The average salary of core green and green enabled jobs posted in 2021 is $63,579, ahead of the national average of $52,036 for all jobs posted in that same period.

As the green economy grows, we will need workers to fill those green positions. To understand the most efficient way of filling these roles, we can look to workers in similar occupations. These workers can be upskilled into a greener role with little cost. The number of potential green workers who fit this criteria is approximately 36,355,912 nationally, which is about 22.5% of the United States labor force.

What does this mean for employers? For employers who are in need of core or enabled green employees, there are many workers in similar jobs who would require minimal upskilling to take on these green roles. This abundance of similar workers means a lower training cost, and a large pool of hidden talent that can be readily tapped. In some cases, that pool of hidden talent may already be within the organization.

What does this mean for workers? Workers can find lucrative jobs in the green economy, whether they are new entrants into the labor force or experienced. Green skills can open up new career opportunities with higher pay and greater stability. For those yet to enter the workforce, look towards green skills if the prospect of a green job interests you, as the education will likely be worthwhile.

What does this mean for policymakers? It is important to focus on equipping workers with the necessary skills and knowledge needed to thrive in green jobs. Coupling investment in green workers with investment in green efficiency and infrastructure initiatives can result in positive results for the local economy. This is also an opportunity for strategic partnerships between multiple stakeholders, bringing together training providers, employers, and workforce development professionals.

Green Jobs Now, a joint project with Working Nation, will include up to ten state specific reports as well as a national overview of the green workforce as it relates to all levels of green that we have defined. These reports dive into the specific skills and occupations related to green jobs, and show local trends for each state investigated.

You can read the individual state reports by clicking the links below. Additional state reports will be released throughout 2022.