Washington's "green" economy struggling through recovery

State employment officials have found evidence that the economic recession has hurt jobs relating to the development or use of environmentally friendly products.

In its third study of Washington’s “green” job industry, the state Employment Security Department found green jobs declined by an estimated 18,300, or 18 percent. Officials estimated there were around 120,000 green jobs in the state in 2011, with nearly 105,000 of them in the private sector.

About 60 percent of the decline occurred in the government sector, according to the department, but private-sector green jobs also shrank in industries that previously had reported increases.

“It appears the recession took at least some toll on green jobs, but how employers interpret the definition may be another factor,” said Cynthia Forland, research director for Employment Security, in a press release.

Officials define a green job as one in which workers are helping to increase energy efficiency, produce renewable energy, or prevent, reduce or clean up pollution. In the department’s study, employers were asked to identify how many of their employees had one or more of these activities as a primary focus of their jobs.

Studies up to this point in both Washington and across the nation have not identified any new industries that are uniquely green, and only a few solely green occupations, such as wind-turbine technician and solar-panel designer.

“As more and more jobs incorporate elements of green activities, there may be fewer jobs where green responsibilities are a primary focus,” Forland said. “The green economy and the regular economy are mostly one and the same.”

Read the report.

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