The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment released an “Interim Report on Green Jobs in the Colorado Economy” in late July estimating that 61,239 jobs, or roughly 2.8% of the state’s workforce, can be classified as a “green job” under the rubric drawn up by CDLE, the Office of Labor Market Information, and the Business Research Division of the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School Business, which conducted the survey.
The “exploratory” survey–”not intended as a definitive statement describing the green economy in Colorado”–was commissioned by CDLE through a $265,000 grant (out of a total of more than $3.8 million) authorized by the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and administered as part of a much larger multi-state survey that included Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Iowa.
The stated objectives of the joint CDLE/LMI survey included qualifying the types of green occupations, training needs, wages, and ranking factors that influence or inhibit the growth of green jobs, in addition to the overall goal of establishing a baseline number of total green jobs in the state.
To promote consistency within the multi-state study and due to Colorado’s later entrance in the project, the methodology and survey characteristics were adapted and retained for use in measuring green jobs in the state’s labor market, according to the report.
The report admits that classifying jobs as green is “highly dependent” on subjective measures, that there is a potential for self-selection bias in reporting by those firms surveyed, and a “broad definition of what constitutes a green job” is open to interpretation.
Furthering the notion of a broad and comprehensive green employment definition, the survey provided a range of potential activities for companies to consider in defining a green job and concluded that, “the job itself must have, as part of its function, paid activities that produce an environmentally friendly product or service” in order to be classified as an eligible green job.
In addition to casting a wide methodological net, the report acknowledges that “most” of the jobs included in the results “pre-date the green economy,” with many having been repurposed or adapted to fit into a “green niche.” No specific numbers are offered.
Despite this, the cross-industry results showed that just 7.5 percent of firms responding reported a green job in their firm, with those same companies reporting a 7.3 percent wage increase over companies reporting no green jobs ($52,334 vs. $48,745).
The CDLE reported statistics consistent with other states that had completed green jobs reports in 2009, with Oregon and Michigan both showing 3 percent each (50,000 and 109,000 jobs, respectively) and Washington clocking in at 3.3 percent (76,000). Of the states included in the background research, Kansas reported only a paltry 1.5 percent of the total workforce in green jobs (20,000), while Missouri boasted a green jobs total of 4.8 percent (131,000). For comparison, the survey cited a Pew research study, also conducted in 2009, that found there were approximately 770,000 green jobs (clean energy and green economy) nationwide.
For Colorado, only 18.1 percent of respondents indicated participation in at least one green activity, including the use of renewable energy, conservation, sustainability, or education. The most reported activity was energy efficiency and conservation (5.3 percent).
Utilities (16.3 percent), public administration (15.1), construction (14.5), and the agriculture/forestry (13.2) sectors lead the way in reporting green jobs in their workforce, while finance/insurance (2.9) and accommodation/food services (2.2) registered much smaller returns.
Overall, the report showed respondents crediting increases in customer demand and tax incentives (deductions, credits) as the prime influence drivers for expanding green jobs, though multiple sectors also noted environmental policies as well, with great variations between individual sectors.
Deterring green jobs growth were firms’ consideration of profit margin and capital financing, with other factors varying widely by industry.
CDLE expects to follow this preliminary report with upcoming job classifications for those green jobs cited, as well as discovering training and education needs for the assistance of the green jobs included in the survey.
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