Reuters

Some 3.1 million people are employed in "green goods and services" jobs, but state patterns vary considerably.

Green jobs are often said to be a key growth area of the future. But according to a new report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, just 3.1 million people, 2.4 percent of all American workers, were employed in "green goods and services" jobs in 2010.

The report defines green jobs across five categories: production of energy from renewable sources; energy efficiency; pollution reduction and removal, greenhouse gas reduction, and recycling and reuse; natural resources conservation; and environmental compliance, education and training, and public awareness.

The majority of these green jobs (2.3 million) come from the private sector. The public sector employed about 860,000 people. The largest sector of employment was manufacturing, with more than 450,000 green jobs.

This squares with a July 2011 Brooking Institution study of clean economy jobs, which identified 2.7 million clean economy jobs across the United States. The report found that median wages for clean economy jobs are 13 percent higher than median U.S. wages, and that a disproportionate share of clean economy jobs are staffed by workers with relatively little formal education. This has created a sizable group of "moderately well-paying green collar occupations," according to the report.

My colleague Zara Matheson at Martin Prosperity Institute used the BLS data to map the distribution of green jobs across the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

(Click the map for a larger image)

The first map, above, shows the number of green jobs by state. Leading the way were six states with more than 100,000 green jobs. California take the top spot with 338,400, followed by New York (248,500), Texas (229,700), Pennsylvania (182,200), Illinois (139,800), and Ohio (126,900). But, of course, those are also some of the largest states, so it makes sense that they have the most green jobs overall.

(Click the map for a larger image)

The second map (above) charts the share of total employment comprised by green jobs across the states. Now, Vermont is the leader - green jobs make up 4.4 percent of its total employment. Green jobs make up more than 3 percent of total employment in D.C. (3.9 percent), Idaho (3.7 percent), Maryland (3.6 percent), Alaska (3.6 percent), Montana (3.5 percent), Oregon (3.4 percent),  Colorado (3.3 percent), Washington (3.3 percent), Pennsylvania (3.3 percent), New York (3.0 percent) and Wyoming (3.0 percent).

(Click the map for a larger image) 

The third map charts the the number of green goods and services jobs per thousand workers. Now, all-urban Washington, D.C., leads with 44.6 green jobs per thousand workers, followed by Vermont (20.6), Alaska (16.1), Maryland (15.1), Montana (14.7), and Oregon (14.3).

With the help of my colleague Charlotta Mellander, I took a quick look at the factors that might be associated with green jobs across states, including income and education levels as well as other economic variables. (The analysis is based on green jobs per thousand workers). As usual, I point out that correlation points only to associations and does not imply causality.

Green jobs are more prevalent in higher income states. There is a moderate correlation between green jobs and state median income (.4).

Green jobs are more closely associated with education or human capital levels. We found a correlation of .65 between green jobs and the share of college grads in state.

Green jobs are also more likely in states with knowledge-based and creative economies. We found a substantial correlation between green jobs and the share of creative class workers (.8) and a significant negative correlation between green jobs and the share of workers in blue-collar jobs (.6). Green jobs are not associated with the share of high-tech jobs in a state.

This analysis is interesting. It suggests that, though the green job sector is likely to grow, it is unlikely to provide a steady supply of lower-skill jobs or substantially bolster the economies or job markets of more heavily industrialized states.

As chock-full of data as the BLS report is, it does not report on green jobs at the metro level. For that we must turn to a database of green jobs built by the Brookings Institution (in partnership with the Battelle Corporation). Jose Lobo and Deborah Strumsky, both MPI research affiliates, have been granted access to the full Brookings database, and in collaboration with MPI research director, Kevin Stolarick, are preparing a detailed study of the geography of the green economy. We'll be bringing you its results here.

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