Labor Dept. releases first ever tally of U.S. green jobs

Giant wind turbines are powered by strong prevailing winds near Palm Springs, Calif. Though the state is known for its green jobs, percentage-wise it is equivalent to many others.

Stacey Vanek Smith: The Bureau of Labor Statistics produced its first ever tally of the number of green jobs in our economy. Turns out, in 2010, there were 3 million green jobs -- about 2 percent of total employment. California had the largest number -- more than 300,000 -- but that was still just 2 percent of the state's total jobs.

Mark Muro is with the Brookings Institution and authored a green jobs study last year. Good morning, Mark.

Mark Muro: Good morning, how are you?

Smith: Fine, thank you. So, were you surprised to find that the percentage of jobs in California that were "green jobs," was no higher than in other parts of the country?

Muro: Actually, I might have been if I hadn't been looking at this issue for several years. We have found that these green jobs measurements, which include all kinds of categories -- including a lot of manufacturing of green products -- really reflect heavily on the manufacturing presence in the state. California is not a huge manufacturer, so it doesn't look as outstanding as other indicators show that it is.

Smith: Mark, we have heard a lot about how green jobs are going to be a major area of growth in our economy, should we expect them to start making up a greater percentage of the total jobs in the country?

Muro: I think that over time we're going to see significant growth. I think what we showed in our work was relatively fast growth, especially in certain sexy, innovative, clean-tech segments -- where you're seeing double-digit groth in jobs. I don't think over the long term this will be a massive job center, but it will be one that will provide innovations that will be important to create new industries in the future.

Smith: Mark Muro is with the Brookings Institution and he's the principal author of a study released last summer on jobs in the clean economy. Mark, thank you.

Muro: Great, thank you.

About the author

Stacey Vanek Smith is a senior reporter for Marketplace, where she covers banking, consumer finance, housing and advertising.

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