"Green" job growth lagged overall job expansion since 2003

So says the Brookings Institute, which also notes the difficulties in attempting to quantify “green jobs” — or even to define them.  As Politico reports (subscription required), Brookings added in all mass-transit employees, apparently without distinction as to energy used, and still discovered that green-job growth lagged overall job growth in the last seven years:

The Washington-based think tank and the engineering firm said in a report Wednesday that nearly 2.7 million people brought home pay checks in 2010 for “clean economy” work, including organic farmers, nuclear power engineers and mass transit workers.

That’s a 3.4 percent increase in the green jobs sector since 2003, less than the nation’s 4.2 percent growth rate for the entire economy. Report authors attributed the sluggish statistics to the collapse of the housing and building markets.

From Brookings itself, an interesting point:

“Sizing the Clean Economy: A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment” concludes that:

The clean economy, which employs some 2.7 million workers, encompasses a significant number of jobs in establishments spread across a diverse group of industries.

Though modest in size, the clean economy employs more workers than the fossil fuel industry and bulks larger than bioscience but remains smaller than the IT-producing sectors. Most clean economy jobs reside in mature segments that cover a wide swath of activities including manufacturing and the provision of public services such as wastewater and mass transit. A smaller portion of the clean economy encompasses newer segments that respond to energy-related challenges. These include the solar photovoltaic (PV), wind, fuel cell, smart grid, biofuel, and battery industries.

So it’s “modest in size,” but it’s already employing more people than the entire fossil-fuel industry?  Brookings seems to get to that conclusion by including end users as part of the “clean economy,” which is not necessarily illegitimate.  But if we’re going to make comparisons, shouldn’t we compare apples to apples?  Instead of comparing it to the the fossil fuel industry, the proper comparison would be to the fossil-fuel economy.

For that matter, when comparing economies, we should also look at how subsidies get used in each economy.  The components identified by Brookings are all highly subsidized activities, especially mass transit and other public services, but also wind, biofuel, and a good portion of the leading-edge work in the battery industry.  And for all of that “economy,” the green energy sector produces a pittance (excluding nuclear power) of the output of the fossil fuel industry, despite decades of these subsidies from federal and state governments.

Remember that when Brookings insists that the “clean economy” is more manufacturing intensive:

The clean economy is manufacturing and export intensive. Roughly 26 percent of all clean economy jobs lie in manufacturing establishments, compared to just 9 percent in the broader economy. On a per job basis, establishments in the clean economy export roughly twice the value of a typical U.S. job ($20,000 versus $10,000). The electric vehicles (EV), green chemical products, and lighting segments are all especially manufacturing intensive while the biofuels, green chemicals, and EV industries are highly export intensive.

The clean economy offers more opportunities and better pay for low- and middle-skilled workers than the national economy as a whole. Median wages in the clean economy—meaning those in the middle of the distribution—are 13 percent higher than median U.S. wages. Yet a disproportionate percentage of jobs in the clean economy are staffed by workers with relatively little formal education in moderately well-paying “green collar” occupations.

Perhaps so — but how much of that is due to government subsidies rather than actual private-capital market forces in the “clean economy”?  The lag in expansion between this and the larger economy suggests that these factors are very dependent on subsidy levels.   Brookings’ note on job creation underscores this point:

However, this measured growth heavily reflected the fact that many longer-standing companies in the clean economy—especially those involved in housing- and building-related segments—laid off large numbers of workers during the real estate crash of 2007 and 2008, while sectors unrelated to the clean economy (mainly health care) created many more new jobs nationally. At the same time, newer clean economy establishments— especially those in young energy-related segments such as wind energy, solar PV, and smart grid—added jobs at a torrid pace, albeit from small bases.

Not coincidentally, these are the same activities that got big boosts in federal subsidies, thanks to Barack Obama’s stimulus package.  Here’s another giveaway, pun intended:

State capitals are among those with a disproportionate share of clean jobs in the public sector (e.g. Harrisburg, Sacramento, Raleigh, and Springfield).

In other words, it’s a boon for bureaucrats, which has been a consistent feature of Obama’s Porkulus. It’s also a consistent feature of the so-called “clean economy,” and of most subsidy-driven industries. And even that can’t keep up with private-sector growth when capital gets used efficiently and effectively.