About 14% of job growth in the U.S. in 2016 was in the energy sector, amounting to over 300,000 net new jobs, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Energy.
A total of 6.4 million Americans now work in the traditional energy and energy efficiency industries, representing 6% of all jobs across the country, the agency said in its second annual "U.S. Energy and Employment Report." The report analyzed how changes to the country's energy profile have affected national employment by looking at jobs in electric power generation and fuels, transmission, distribution and storage, energy efficiency and motor vehicles.
Electric power generation and fuels technologies directly employ more than 1.9 million workers, the report said, with 55%, or 1.1 million, of those employees working in traditional coal, oil and gas industries. Nearly 800,000 work in low carbon emissions generation technologies including renewables, nuclear energy and advanced/low emission natural gas.
Solar energy jobs surged by 25% in 2016 and wind energy jobs by 32%, according to the Energy Department. Just under 374,000 employees work whole or in part for solar firms, and wind firms employ an additional 102,000.
The energy transmission, distribution and storage sector accounts for roughly 2.3 million domestic energy jobs, with about 830,000 of those jobs in utilities and construction and 982,000 in retail trade, which includes gasoline stations and fuel dealers, according to the report.
Construction companies were responsible for the most employment in this sector in 2016, adding 424,593 jobs, a significant increase from the previous year, the Energy Department said. Those companies are responsible for building pipelines and electric transmission and distribution infrastructure, and for the development of smart grids and microgrids. Additionally, 27% of the construction companies reported that more than half of their revenues are from grid modernization or other utility-funded modernization projects, the agency reported.
The design, installation and manufacture of energy efficiency products and services account for about 2.2 million jobs in the U.S., and the sector added 133,000 jobs in 2016.
More than 2.4 million employees are part of the motor vehicles and component parts sector, not including auto dealerships. More than 259,000 employees work with alternative fuels vehicles, including natural gas, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, all-electric and fuel cell/hydrogen vehicles, which is an increase of 69,000 jobs in 2016. Hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles make up over 76% of this number, supporting 198,000 employees. One-sixth, or 17%, of all companies involved in this sector obtain all of their revenue from products that increase fuel economy for motor vehicles, the report said.
The Energy Department reported that the companies covered in the report predict employment growth of about 5% during 2017. Energy efficiency employers anticipate the highest growth rate at 9%; electric power generation predicted 7% growth; and transmission, distribution and storage projected growth of about 6%. Motor vehicles anticipated just over 3% growth, the report said, with manufacturing remaining flat. The fuels sector reported an expected decline of about 2% over the next year.
Rebuilding domestic energy infrastructure by modernizing the power grid, diversifying the energy mix, reducing energy consumption and creating new energy and transportation technologies are helping to revitalize the country's labor markets, the report said.
However, job growth in energy is uneven when examined on a state level. "States such as California and Texas, which have abundant solar, wind and fossil fuel resources, have shown dramatic employment gains, despite some losses linked to low fossil fuel prices," the report said. States like West Virginia and Wyoming, which depend heavily on coal, have experienced a decline in employment since 2015, the Energy Department reported.