Green jobs numbers in California are a mixed bag

The Sacramento BeeOctober 12, 2010 

For Jerry Brown and many of his fellow Democrats, the future of California's struggling labor force hinges on a clean energy industry they say is poised to take off.

They picture a green California where hundreds of thousands of people work to install solar panels and build electricity-powered cars.

The numbers, however, tell a less gung-ho story, at least when it comes to meeting the immediate challenge of putting to work the 1.3 million people statewide who have lost their jobs since 2007.

Green jobs may be growing more quickly than the overall state work force, but not nearly at the pace and in the numbers needed to turn around what's been a devastating labor market collapse, say economists and experts in the sector.

"I don't want to oversell the core green economy," said F. Noel Perry, a venture capitalist who founded the nonprofit research group Next 10, which has extensively studied the alternative energy industry.

"Unemployment is over 12 percent. We've seen the construction industry crater. There are very few areas of industrial growth in California. Green jobs are not going to fill that vacuum today."

Perry, however, sees a promising long-term future for the sector.

"There is a movement taking place," Perry said. "There is a transformation."

Unfortunately for Californians looking for work right now, that change won't happen quickly enough.

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