Report: Employment Trends in the Energy Sector

The U.S. Energy and Employment Report found that the energy sector employed more than 8.2 million Americans in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic instills uncertainty in the sector.
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The 2020 U.S. Energy and Employment Report is out, produced by the National Association of State Energy Officials and the Energy Future Initiative, a nonprofit think tank from California. The study analyzes the energy sector, which, in terms of employment expansion, has emerged as an engine for the U.S. economy. Now, the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting the breaks as a rising number of Americans file for unemployment and factories that manufacture electric vehicles and efficient items are shutting down, or at least stop their activity for the time being.


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The USEER studied the employment of several sectors: Fuels, electric power generation, transmission, distribution and storage, energy efficiency and motor vehicles. Of these, fuels, EPG and TDS make up the traditional energy sector.

Image courtesy of the 2020 U.S. Energy & Employment Report

The report, which was first released in 2015 by the Department of Energy, found that the traditional energy sector employed 6.8 million Americans in 2019, 120,300 of which were new positions, at double the rate of the economy as a whole since 2015. The energy and fuel efficiency segment contributed to more than 400,000 new U.S. jobs in the last five years.

Fuels

Last year, the sector gained more than 26,000 jobs, up about 2 percent to a total of more than 1.1 million positions. Oil and natural gas led growth, employers in the sector hiring more than 18,000 combined, to 615,500 and 276,000 jobs, respectively.

While coal fuels jobs remained stable (up nearly 1 percent to roughly 75,500 positions), biofuels such as corn ethanol marked a slight decrease. Woody biomass and other biofuels rose almost 2 percent or 775 jobs.

Electric Power Generation

Last year, the sector gained more than 21,000 jobs, up 2.4 percent year-over-year, reaching a total in excess of 890,000 jobs. Job losses in nuclear and coal generation were offset by increases in natural gas, solar, wind, combined heat and power, hydro and geothermal.

Chart courtesy of the 2020 U.S. Energy & Employment Report

The natural gas component, which now exceeds coal in both employment and gigawatts produced, led the expansion, gaining 9,100 jobs, 6,500 of which were in advanced/low emissions technologies. Solar energy firms gained nearly 5,700 jobs last year for a 2.3 percent expansion, while wind energy companies hired 3,600 employees for a 3.2 percent increase. Collectively, natural gas, solar and wind total nearly 485,000 jobs.

Transmission, distribution and storage

The sector employs more than 2.4 million people, of which more than one million are retail gasoline station workers. TDS infrastructure for electric power and fuel links energy supplies to intermediate and end-users. It includes 2.6 million miles of interstate and intrastate pipelines, 414 natural gas storage facilities, 330 ports handling crude petroleum and refined petroleum products, 140,000 miles of railways that handle crude petroleum, refined petroleum products, liquefied natural gas and coal, 642,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines and 6.3 million miles of distribution lines.

Chart courtesy of the 2020 U.S. Energy & Employment Report

Employment in the construction segment rose 4 percent over the previous year, to a total of 499,000 new positions, while TDS employment remained flat at 417,600. The grid modernization and other utility-funded modernization projects marked a drop of 6 percent over the prior year.

Energy efficiency

The energy efficiency component, which covers the production and installation of energy-saving products and the provision of services that reduce end-use energy consumption, has created more than 54,000 positions last year and directly supported some 2.3 million jobs. These jobs, include the manufacture of ENERGY STAR-labeled products, building design and contracting services that provide insulation, improve natural lighting and reduce overall energy consumption across households and businesses.

Chart courtesy of the 2020 U.S. Energy & Employment Report

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The report also includes projections for 2020 expansions for each of the energy sectors, yet the COVID-19 pandemic, which left many worksites empty as a measure to prevent the spread of the virus, makes them irrelevant for now as the outbreak’s impacts on energy jobs are difficult to predict. However, according to the authors of the report, job growth of the sectors was most threatened by the problem of finding qualified employees for the jobs.