The U.S. solar industry employed 231,474 workers in 2020, a 6.7% drop from 2019 due to pandemic restrictions and increased labor productivity, according to the National Solar Jobs Census 2020 recently released by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), The Solar Foundation, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) and BW Research.
The drop in jobs was largely split evenly among states as many companies have not yet reached pre-pandemic employment levels. Labor productivity also increased in all three market segments – up 19% in the residential sector, 2% in the non-residential sector and 32% in the utility-scale sector. Less labor-intensive utility-scale installations contributed to a record amount of solar capacity added in 2020. However, the pandemic took a toll on residential jobs in the summer and those jobs did not fully recover by the end of the year.
Installation and construction-related employment continued to be the largest segment in the industry, representing 67% of all jobs. Of all installation jobs 55% were residential, 18% were commercial, 8% community solar and 19% were utility-scale. Importantly, workers in manufacturing jobs represented 14% of all U.S. industry employment, while sales and distribution and operations and maintenance represented 11% and 4% of all jobs, respectively.
The new figures come as lawmakers debate infrastructure spending that could boost the solar workforce with hundreds of thousands of jobs over the next decade. SEIA analysis shows that the solar industry will need to reach more than 900,000 workers to reach President Joe Biden’s 2035 clean energy target.
“The solar industry continues to support hundreds of thousands of jobs across all 50 states, and even during a pandemic, our companies largely were able to keep workers on the job,” says Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of SEIA. “We now have an opportunity to quadruple our workforce, adding diversity and supporting underserved communities by taking policy steps that incentivize solar and storage deployment and provide long-term certainty for solar businesses.”
To download the report, view the interactive charts and explore the state map, click here.
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