DOE Finds Strong Opportunity For Job Growth In Energy Sector Post-Pandemic

United States Department of Energy

Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) this week hosted a roundtable, “Investing in America’s Energy Sector: An Opportunity to Recover and Build Back Better” to share the findings of the 2021 U.S. Energy Employment Report (USEER).

The study began in 2016 to better track and understand employment within key energy sectors. The release marks the return of the report management to the agency, after being produced externally since 2017. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the energy sector had been one of the country’s fastest-growing job markets. From 2015 to 2019, the annual growth rate for energy employment in the United States was 3%—double compared to 1.5% in the general economy. In 2020, following wide-spread economic losses due to the pandemic, USEER analysis shows that by the end of the year, the energy sector was already rebounding—adding back 560,000 jobs.

“Although we are still grappling with the economic shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country is turning a corner and a strong energy workforce is critical to our full recovery,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm. “The U.S. Energy Employment Report provides us with the best available data into the energy sector and we are proud to have DOE’s experts once again produce this crucial analysis. As the report shows, energy employment is on the rebound, and with the robust investments in President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda we are set to supercharge the energy job market.”

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As the economy experienced widespread losses in 2020, the USEER analysis shows the energy sector was rebounding by the end of that year—adding back 560,000 jobs, recovering nearly half of the jobs lost. The analysis showed there was a total of 839,000 jobs lost in 2020, a 10% decline from 8.4 million to 7.5 million jobs.

Sectors with the largest declines include:

  • Electric power generation, transmission, distribution, and storage, and fuels had a 9.8% decline, down to 3.1 million jobs
  • Energy-efficiency sectors had a 11.4% decline, down to 2.1 million jobs
  • Motor vehicles had a 9% decline, down to 2.3 million jobs

Despite the sector-wide job losses in 2020, the USEER found continued energy investments throughout the year prevented declines in some key areas and resulted in job growth:

  • Electric vehicle increased by 6,000 jobs (8% increase)
  • Battery storage increased by 800 jobs (1% increase)
  • Hybrid electric vehicles increased by 6,000 jobs (6% increase)
  • Wind generation increased by 2,000 jobs (2% increase)
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“Although the renewable energy sector was hard hit by the pandemic, it provides significant potential as an economic driver. Modernization of the grid and the installation of new PV and wind capacity will provide thousands of new, high-paying jobs in manufacturing, installation and maintenance across the country,” said Martin Shields, Professor of Economics at Colorado State University. “As renewables become a larger part of the generation portfolio, it can reduce electricity prices, helping residential, industrial and commercial consumers through lower utility bills.”

With this insight, key investments to modernize the nation’s electric grid, fuels infrastructure, buildings, and transportation, such as those in the President’s Build Back Better agenda and the infrastructure plan, will likely help recoup the job losses from 2020 and return the sector to positive growth rates in 2021. According to the report, employers from almost every energy sector signaled strong job growth in the year ahead:

  • Companies connected with energy efficiency operations anticipated a 10.1% job increase
  • Companies tied to electric power generation predicted an 8.1% rise
  • The fuels sector expected a 5.5% increase in jobs
  • The transportation, distribution, and storage sector signaled an anticipated 4.2% job growth
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The fact sheet and report can be found at www.energy.gov/useer.

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