Survey Indicates Wash. Green Jobs Are on the Rise

OLYMPIA, Wash. – A survey produced by the state’s Employment Security Department identified 99,319 green jobs in Washington in 2009, about 3.3 percent of the state’s work force.
The survey, released in March, suggests green jobs grew by 33 percent, or 15,100 positions, for companies that were surveyed in 2008 and again in 2009.
“If Washington can see this kind of shift to green jobs during a recession, just think what will happen as our economy recovers,” says Gov. Chris Gregoire.

More than 13,000 employers responded to the 2009 survey, resulting in a 70 percent response rate. Among the green jobs listed, 76,137 were private-sector positions while 23,182 were public-sector jobs. In the survey, green jobs were described as positions that increased energy efficiency, produce renewable energy, prevent or reduce environmental pollution, or provided mitigation or cleanup of environmental pollution.

Officials caution that a variety of factors can account for the differences between the 2008 and 2009 reports, including the fact that the 2008 survey did not include public-sector positions and that some of the 2009 numbers may have resulted from better awareness of what constitutes a green job. Private sector companies surveyed for the first time in 2009 accounted for another 13,843 green jobs not listed in the 2008 survey. Surveyors caution that these factors may make it difficult to draw solid conclusions.   

In 2009, construction jobs accounted for more green jobs than any other industry with 29,410 positions (39 percent), largely in the area of increasing energy efficiency. The agriculture industry ranked second with 12,027 green jobs, mostly in the field of preventing and reducing environmental pollution. The most common green occupation was agricultural workers, followed by electricians, according to the 2009 survey.

Among the 12 statewide workforce development areas outlined by the ESD, the southeastern Benton-Franklin counties region was listed as having the largest amount of green jobs of total workforce in the state at 8.2 percent. The Seattle-King development area had the largest number of green jobs per region overall at 32,857, or 33.1 percent of green jobs, an amount that made up 2.7 percent of that region’s total employment numbers.

“We don’t really have a separate green economy,” says Employment Security Commissioner Karen Lee. “We have an economy that is becoming greener.”

The ESD survey was request by the state Legislature as part of Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 2227 (E2SHB 2227), which passed in 2009. E2SHB 2227 was created to identify strategic green industries in the state and to train workers in green-economy industries and jobs.

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