In The Race For “Green Jobs,” The Midwest Is Doing OK At Best

Credit: flickr user agrilifetoday

Not too long ago, jobs in the new green economy were seen as the number one solution to transform the Midwest economy. You almost couldn’t go to any sort of economic luncheon or policy briefing without hearing about it.

So, how is the Midwest actually doing when it comes to creating these “green jobs”?

Meh. We’re doing all right. Not great. Not horrible.

Yesterday, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics for the first time released data on how many jobs there are in “green goods and services.” The figures include construction jobs for people who weatherize homes, manufacturing jobs for people who make fuel efficient cars and scientific jobs for people who try to come up with environmental solutions, among many other kinds of jobs.

The headline is that the U.S. had about 3.1 million of these green jobs in 2010, accounting for about 2.4 percent of all jobs in the country.

If you just look at the sheer number of jobs, the Midwest did pretty well: Both Illinois and Ohio rank in the top ten. But those are also big states, with lots of jobs. So, if you look at the numbers just based on the percentage of the states’ overall jobs that can be classified as “green,” then the numbers are less impressive.

Basically, most Midwest states are just slightly above average when it comes to green jobs.

Iowa and Minnesota had the highest green job rates in the Midwest. In both states, green jobs make up 2.7 percent of the total number of jobs.

Michigan is the worst state in the Midwest for green jobs, by percentage. It’s tied for 36th in the country, with 2.1 percent of its jobs in the green economy.

Our own Kate Davidson reported last year on Michigan’s struggles to create these kinds of jobs. And former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm pretty much staked her legacy on clean energy jobs.

So what gives? Politicians across the Midwest have claimed that our states will become leaders in the green economy. Our region may not be failing, but it’s certainly not leading – at least in terms of job creation.

What more needs to happen?

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