Brookings: New York's "clean economy" is second largest in country

Jul 13, 2011

Approximately 2.7 million workers are part of America’s "clean economy," according to a new report out today from the Brookings Institution.

So what exactly does that mean? And how does New York measure up?

Researchers spent a year and half on an admittedly difficult task: measuring the size of America's "clean economy," which they defined as sectors that produce environmental benefits.

It turns out that many of these "green" jobs are nothing new. They include industries like waste management and manufacturing.

Jonathan Rothwell is a senior research analyst at Brookings and co-author of the report. He says the broad definition of  what constitutes "clean" came from previously established government guidelines.

"We didn't feel like we wanted to invent a new definition of the clean economy, so we largely adopted precedents laid out by government statistical agencies, which themselves rely on detailed science and advice from experts," says Rothwell.

Those precedents are mainly from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For example, BLS guidelines include nuclear power as a clean energy source, but not natural gas.

According to the report, about 185,000 New Yorkers, or 2 percent of the state's workforce,  hold "green" jobs, making New York  second in the nation, behind California, when it comes to its share of the "clean economy."

Capitalizing on clusters

Albany topped the nation in "green" jobs on a per capita basis. The report found that 6.3 percent of its workers are part of the clean economy.

The work of the state's Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) also gets praise from the report's authors. Frank Murray heads the authority, and says the study is a validation of what New York is already doing.

"If you look at the specific recommendations that the Brookings Institution report has, every one of those policies has been embraced and promoted here in New York State," says Murray.

The report's policy recommendations include increasing government funding for innovation, and focusing on developing clean economy clusters (like New York's Capital Region).

The New York State Department of Labor issued its own report recently with similar findings about the size of the state's "green" workforce.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics is due out with another study to measure the country's clean economy next year.