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California’s Green Economy Doubled Performance of Total Economy During Downturn

Joseph Romm's picture
, American Progress
  • Member since 2018
  • 1,651 items added with 356,866 views
  • Feb 9, 2012

Job creation in California’s clean energy/materials manufacturing sector increased by 53% from 1995 to 2010

When times get tough, companies often fall back on an old familiar phrase: “we just need to do more with less.” That usually applies to human resources. But it’s equally important with natural resources.

As it turns out, “green” companies in California that do more with fewer natural resources fared much better than companies in other sectors during the worst of America’s economic troubles — more than doubling the performance of the broader economy.

A new report from the non-partisan environmental think tank Next 10 shows that between 2009 and 2010, the “core green economy” in California — comprised of companies that provide products or services to cut natural resource use, re-purpose waste, and reduce global warming pollution — experienced half the number of job losses seen in the state’s broader economy.

Between January of 2009 and January of 2010, California’s economy shed 7% of jobs; however, the green economy saw only a 3% reduction in jobs. And from 1995 to 2010, the green economy in the state grew by 53% — far outpacing the 12% growth in the rest of the economy during that period of time.

California’s Core Green Economy shows signs of greater resilience than the economy as a whole. Over the past 16 years, its growth has outpaced the economy as a whole by more than a factor of four, and percentage losses are half those of the state’s total employment.

Despite these losses, some segments posted employment gains in the most recent observable period (January 2009 to 2010). Employment in Energy Infrastructure increased 14 percent, Advanced Materials expanded by four percent while Clean Transportation and Energy Generation grew by one percent each. Across the value chain, Manufacturing jobs in the Core Green Economy expanded by one percent from January 2009 to 2010, the only value chain segment to do so.

The big story was job creation in the clean energy/materials manufacturing sector, which increased by 53% from 1995 to 2010 while jobs in the rest of the manufacturing sector dropped by 18%. And as the report authors note above, even though companies saw a substantial slowdown due to the economic crisis between 2009 and 2010, employment in green manufacturing saw a slight increase in employment of one percent.

These figures echo those in a recent report from the Brookings Institution showing that clean energy jobs nationwide expanded by 8.3% per year from 2003 to 2010, with the rest of the “clean economy” (a broader definition including public transit, recycling and next-generation materials) growing 8.3% during the height of the recession between 2008 and 2009.


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