Jobs census: U.S. solar industry grows more than 20 percent in 2015

A Washington D.C.-based solar research and education nonprofit released its annual solar jobs census earlier this month, which found that employment in the U.S. solar industry grew by more than 20 percent in 2015.

The Solar Foundation’s sixth annual “National Solar Jobs Census” was released Jan. 12 and found that the number of workers in the U.S. solar industry grew by 35,052 in 2015 for a total of 208,859 jobs (a year-over-year increase of 20.2 percent). According to those numbers, the Solar Foundation reported that solar industry employment grew nearly 12 times faster in 2015 than average national employment growth, which was 1.7 percent last year.

“The solar industry has once again proven to be a powerful engine of economic growth and job creation,” Andrew Luecke, president and executive director of The Solar Foundation, said in a Jan. 12 news release. “Employment in solar has grown an extraordinary 123 percent since 2010, adding approximately 115,000 well-paying jobs. Our census findings show that one out of every 83 new jobs created in the U.S. over the last 12 months was in the solar industry – 1.2% of all new jobs.”

In contrast to the growth experienced in the solar arena, employment in the oil and gas extraction industry shrank by 13,800 jobs in 2015. The oil and gas pipeline construction industry also lost 9,500 jobs in the U.S. last year.

According to the census, solar industry employers anticipate sustained growth and expect to add at least another 30,000 jobs during the next 12 months. That 14.7 percent increase would bring the number of U.S solar industry jobs to an estimated 239,625.

“The U.S. solar power industry continues to grow and create jobs, providing further evidence that promoting economic growth and fighting climate change can go hand-in-hand,” former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in the release.

The Solar Foundation conducted the census in conjunction with the BW Research Partnership. It includes data collected through the survey of more than 19,000 American businesses (2,350 full completions by solar establishments), according to the organization.