New U.S. Energy and Jobs Report Shows Growth, Less Diverse Workforce

Blacks in Workforce


Energy jobs are growing faster than the national average and energy-related sectors are less diverse than the national workforce, according to the 2018 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER).

“The nation’s energy sector employed 6.5 million Americans in 2017, up 133,000 jobs from the year prior,” a press release about the report noted. “This two percent growth rate exceeded the national average of 1.7 percent. Jobs in the energy sectors accounted for nearly 7 percent of all new jobs nationwide in 2017.”

National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) and the Energy Futures Initiative (EFI) released the report last week. NASEO is the only national non-profit association for the governor-designated energy officials from each of the 56 states and territories, according to the group’s website. EFI provides policymakers, industry leaders, NGOs with data driven, unbiased policy recommendations, “to advance a cleaner, safer, more affordable and more secure energy future.”

The report said that the companies surveyed anticipate roughly 6.2 percent employment growth for 2018.

Despite the positive growth trends, ethnic and racial minorities account for a smaller share of the workforce in the energy-related sectors than their corresponding national averages, the report said. Hispanic or Latino workers account for 10-19 percent of the labor force in energy-related sectors, compared to 17 percent in the overall economy. Black workers hold 5-9 percent of the jobs in energy-related sectors and account for 12 percent of the national workforce.

The USEER examines four sectors of the energy economy: Electric Power Generation and Fuels; Transmission, Distribution, and Storage; Energy Efficiency; and Motor Vehicles.

According to the report, Electric Power Generation covers all utility and non-utility employment across electric generating technologies including fossil fuels, nuclear, and renewable energy technologies.

“Energy Efficiency employers project the highest growth rate over 2018 (9 percent), followed by Electric Power Generation (8 percent); Motor Vehicles (almost 7 percent, including a 6 percent increase in manufacturing), Transmission, Distribution, and Storage (3 percent), and the Fuels sector (2 percent),” the report said.

According to the report, Electric Power Generation covers all utility and non-utility employment across electric generating technologies including fossil fuels, nuclear, and renewable energy technologies.

Employment totals for any firms engaged in facility construction, turbine and other generation equipment manufacturing, as well as wholesale parts distribution of all electric generation technologies are also included in that metric, the report said.

The Electric Power Generation sector included 883,842 jobs in 2017, up nearly 2 percent from the previous year’s 867,434 workers, and employers report a projected 8 percent growth over 2018, the report said.

Blacks account for 9 percent of the electric power generation workforce (76,985) compared to White workers who hold 70 percent of the electric power generation jobs (615,696).

Fuels employment includes all work related to fuel extraction and mining, including petroleum refineries and firms that support coal mining, oil, and gas field machinery manufacturing, the report said. The Fuels sector employed 1,074,935 workers in 2017, compared to the previous year’s level of over 1,081,000 jobs, according to the report.

“Workers across both the forestry and agriculture industries that support fuel production with corn ethanol, biodiesels, and fuel wood are also included in the fuel employment estimates,” the report said.

Black workers account for 5 percent of the Fuels workforce (53,488) and Whites account for 84 percent of the Fuels workforce (903,045).

According to the USEER, Energy Efficiency employment covers both the production of energy-saving products and the provision of services that reduce end-use energy consumption.

“However, the USEER only captures employment with certified energy efficiency products or those installed according to ENERGY STAR guidelines, as well as advanced building materials such as insulation,” the report said.

African Americans account for 8 percent of the energy efficiency workforce (176,303) compared to White workers that hold 78 percent of the jobs in that sector (1,748,399).

The U.S. Motor Vehicles sector employed roughly 2.46 million Americans in 2017, increasing by nearly 29,000 employees over 2016. The Motor Vehicles jobs measure doesn’t include dealerships and retailers. According to the report, 39.7 percent of employment in that sector consists of manufacturing and 37.8 percent involves vehicle repair and maintenance. Nearly 20 percent of workers are involved in direct transport of motor vehicle parts and supplies via air, rail, water, or truck, as well as merchant wholesalers for motor vehicle parts and supplies, the report said.

Blacks hold 180,031 of the jobs in the Motor Vehicles sector accounting for 8 percent of the workforce compared to White workers who hold 1,832,239 of the jobs and 78 percent of the Motor Vehicles workforce.

The Electric Power Transmission, Distribution, and Storage sector encompasses the jobs associated with constructing, operating, and maintaining this infrastructure. It also includes workers associated with the entire network of power lines that transmit electricity from generating stations to customers as well as activities that support power and pipeline construction, fuel distribution and transport, and the manufacture of electrical transmission equipment, the USEER said. Like the Motor Vehicles sector, Black workers account for 8 percent of the Electric Power Transmission, Distribution, and Storage sector labor force and 97,084 of the jobs. Whites make up 71 percent of the workforce in that sector and hold 854,224 of the jobs.

“The USEER has proven to be an important tool for state energy officials, who will use this unique set of ‘all of the above’ energy jobs data to inform policy development and planning,” said David Terry, the executive director of the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO).

During a presentation about the report on Capitol Hill, Ernest J. Moniz, the former Energy Secretary under President Barack Obama, called the report a foundation for state governments, non-profit organizations and businesses to analyze the data and develop policy proposals.

Moniz noted that although many industry leaders expressed concerns about hiring challenges in a very tight labor market, there were still opportunities to recruit and train people to fill jobs. The former energy secretary added that apprentice programs prosper when there are partnerships between state agencies and labor union groups; pre-apprenticeship programs can also aid in addressing some of the diversity issues found in the energy industry today.

“The competitiveness of this sector is important,” Moniz said. “We know that the definition of full employment does not mean that there aren’t people who are available, with appropriate training, to come in to the jobs.”

Freddie Allen is the Editor-in-Chief of the NNPA Newswire and Follow Freddie on Twitter @freddieallenjr.