The number of “green jobs” in Michigan are growing, even as traditionally strong sectors of Michigan’s economy continue to take a beating. A new report by the State of Michigan finds that green-related firms added more than 2,500 jobs to Michigan’s economy from 2005-2008–a 7.7% expansion rate–while the Michigan average was a decline in the number of jobs by 5.4%.
The report defines “green jobs” as “jobs directly involved in generating or supporting a firm’s green related products or services.” This includes jobs in five sectors: agriculture and natural resource conservation, clean transportation and fuels, increased energy efficiency, pollution prevention or environmental cleanup, and renewable energy production.
The key findings from the report:
- Michigan boasts 109,067 private sector green jobs: 96,767 direct green jobs (people directly involved in generating a firm’s green-related products or services) and 12,300 green support jobs (anyone from a janitor to an accountant whose job is created to serve direct green work).
- Clean transportation and fuels is the largest green economy area in Michigan, comprising just over 40% of green jobs and reflecting Michigan’s automotive heritage. If Michigan succeeds in developing alternative fuel, hybrid and electric vehicles, this sector may grow significantly.
- There is huge potential for growth throughout the green economy. Today, green jobs represent just 3% of Michigan’s overall private sector employment of 3.2 million.
- Indeed, from 2005 to 2008, a sample of 358 green related firms added more than 2,500 jobs to Michigan’s economy, an employment expansion rate of 7.7% — compared to the total Michigan average of negative 5.4%.
- Among the renewable energy production firms in that sample, the growth rate hit 30%. Renewable energy production, which today is the smallest green sector, may be the fastest growing.
- The green economy appears to be a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity. Among our sample of 358 green-related firms, over 70 appeared to be newly created since 2005, accounting for nearly 600 jobs already.
- Green jobs tend to pay well. Thirteen of the top 15 sectors of green employment have weekly wages above the overall private sector weekly average.
- Green jobs encompass a wide range of occupations. Engineering and construction jobs are prominent, but many other jobs of all skill levels are required by the green economy.
- Education and training are key for green employers. In multiple focus groups, employers emphasized the need for basics in math and reading with additional skills to be acquired on-the-job or in school depending on the precise green job in question.
Moreover, the report argues that local, state, and federal policy can drive increased growth in the green economy. It cites Michigan Renewable Energy Standard, the requirement that utilities spend a portion of their revenues on energy efficiency measures for their customers, and incentives for battery production as examples.
“Green Jobs” Aren’t Always “Good Jobs”
While it’s good that there has been progress made on expanding the number of green jobs in Michigan, it’s always good to remember that just because a job is “green” doesn’t mean that it is “good.” A report released back in February the Change to Win Coalition, Good Jobs First, and the Sierra Club argued that the shift to a “green economy” offers an important opportunity to address structural problems with the U.S. economy. That report, titled “High Road or Low Road: Job Quality in the New Green Economy?,” documented that low wages are common place and that manufacturing jobs in the “green economy” typically pay less than traditional manufacturing jobs. Unions are also less prevalent.
The report singled problems with green jobs in Michigan at two United Solar Ovonic facilities where wages are lower than expected and outsourcing is commonplace. Just yesterday, the United Solar Ovonic facility in Greenville are facing a one-month temporary closing to cut costs.
However, the Michigan Green Jobs report showed higher wages in green jobs in many sectors, although possibilities for improvement remained. It said nothing about unionization rats.
Governor Granholm should be praised for moving the economy in a “green” direction, but as always, we should be asking what that means and demanding more.