TODAY’S STUDY: THE JOBS IN SOLAR RIGHT NOW
National Solar Jobs Census 2014
January 2015 (The Solar Foundation)
National Solar Jobs Census 2014 is the fifth annual update of current employment, trends, and projected growth in the U.S. solar industry. Data for Census 2014 is derived from a statistically valid sampling and comprehensive survey of 276,376 establishments throughout the nation, in industries ranging from manufacturing, to construction and engineering, to sales. Rapid change in this industry has warranted annual examinations of the size and scope of the domestic solar labor force and updates on employers’ perspectives on job growth and future opportunities.
This year’s Census found that the industry continues to exceed growth expectations, adding workers1 at a rate nearly 20 times faster than the overall economy and accounting for 1.3% of all jobs created in the U.S. over the past year. Our long-term research shows that solar industry employment has grown by 86% in the past five years, resulting in nearly 80,000 domestic living-wage jobs. The installation sector, made up of men and women placing these systems in service, crew managers or foremen, system designers and engineers, and sales representatives and site assessors, remains the single largest source of domestic employment growth, more than doubling in size since 2010.
With leading market analyses continuing to project record-breaking increases in annual installed solar capacity before the 30% federal investment tax credit (ITC) expires at the end of 2016, it is very likely that the national solar workforce will continue growing at its remarkable pace in the short term. However, if the ITC reverts to the 10% level in 2017, solar employment growth is likely to slow or may even experience significant job losses. As of November 2014, the solar industry employs 173,807 solar workers, representing a growth rate of 21.8% since November 2013. Throughout 2014, U.S. businesses as a whole added nearly 1.8 million jobs at an annual growth rate of 1.1%, meaning employment in the solar industry grew nearly 20 times faster than employment in the overall economy.
Over the next 12 months, employers surveyed expect to see total employment in the solar industry increase by 20.9% to 210,096 solar workers.
This report includes up-to-date information on the solar industry, quantifying employment growth since last year’s study and trends since the publication of Census 2010. These research findings also provide stakeholders with current information on the potential for further growth and the factors that are likely to impact the industry over the coming years.
Based on the observed growth in solar employment in this and previous Census reports, we draw the following conclusions.
As of November 2014:
• Solar industry employment increased by nearly 22% since November 2013, which is almost twenty times the national average job growth rate. There are 173,807 solar workers in the U.S., up from 142,698 for the previous year. 2014 was the second consecutive year in which solar employment both grew by approximately 20% or more and exceeded Census growth projections.
• Employment in the U.S. solar industry increased nearly 86% over the past four years. Since the first National Solar Jobs Census was published by The Solar Foundation in September 2010, the solar industry increased 85.9%, adding over 80,000 workers.
• Solar is a major source of new U.S. jobs. Of the more than 31,000 new solar jobs added since November 2013, 85 percent are new jobs (rather than existing positions that have added solar responsibilities), representing approximately 26,600 new jobs created.
• The solar industry created 1.3% of all new U.S. jobs. One out of every 78 new jobs created in the U.S. since Census 2013 was created by the solar industry –representing 1.3% of all new jobs.
• The solar industry expects to add over 36,000 solar jobs over the next 12 months. If realized, this 20.9% growth rate would make 2015 the third consecutive year that annual solar job growth was near or above twenty percent. This estimate compares with a projected 1% increase in employment in the overall economy over the next year.
• Of the 173,807 solar workers in the United States, approximately 157,500 are 100% dedicated to solar activities. The “all-solar” percentage of workers is effectively unchanged since 2013.
• The U.S. solar industry is becoming more efficient, to less than 15.5 jobs per megawatt of installed capacity. This is down from 19.5 jobs per megawatt in 2012.
• Including indirect and induced impacts, the solar industry supports approximately 700,000 U.S. jobs. Census data include occupations critical to meeting domestic installation demand. These include most of the direct jobs and many of the indirect jobs in the solar industry, with the exception of some indirect jobs in the component and materials supply chain. Those jobs, combined with induced impacts of the industry, support an additional 531,200 jobs, bringing the total employment impact for the U.S. solar industry to over 705,000.
• Wages paid to solar workers remain competitive with similar industries and provide many living-wage opportunities. Solar installers pay an average wage of $20-24 per hour, with the mean wage for these workers rising by 1.6% over the previous year. Manufacturers pay their assemblers nearly $18 per hour, while internal sales people at these firms earn approximately $44 per hour. Overall, salespeople have a wide range of pay, from about $30 to more than $60 per hour, and solar designers receive between $30-40 per hour.
• Solar workers are increasingly diverse. Demographic groups such as Latino/Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and African American, along with women and veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces now represent a larger percentage of the solar workforce than was observed in Census 2013. These higher percentages, coupled with overall growth in solar employment, means workers from these groups are growing in number as well as percentage of the workforce. Women account for over 37,500 solar workers – 21.6% of total – up from around 26,700 in 2013. Nearly 17,000 veterans are employed by solar establishments, compared with just over 13,000 the previous year.
National Solar Jobs Census 2014 continues to demonstrate that the U.S. solar industry is having a positive and growing impact on the national economy and supports jobs across every state in the nation.
As with the previous Census studies, this report includes information about all types of companies engaged in the analysis, research and development, production, sales, installation, and use of all solar technologies – ranging from solar photovoltaics (PV), to concentrating solar power (CSP), to solar water heating systems for the residential, commercial, industrial, and utility market segments.
The findings presented herein are based on rigorous survey efforts that include 66,986 telephone calls and over 25,655 emails to known and potential solar establishments across the United States, resulting in a maximum margin of error for employment-related questions of +/- 2.03%.
Unlike economic impact models that generate employment estimates based on economic data or jobs-per-megawatt (or jobs-per-dollar) assumptions, the National Solar Jobs Census series provides statistically valid and current data gathered from actual employers. This analysis also purposefully avoids artificially inflating its results with questionable multiplier effects often found in analyses of other industries.
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