WASHINGTON – Arizona added more than 2,300 clean-energy industry jobs last year, falling just shy of the state’s pre-pandemic employment levels but matching the nation for job growth in the sector, a new report said.
The annual Clean Jobs America report by Environmental Entrepreneurs – or E2 – said the bulk of the 61,583 clean-energy jobs in the state were in energy-efficiency fields, like efficient lighting, heating and insulation. But Arizona also had almost 12,000 jobs in renewable energy industries and more than 4,000 in clean vehicles.
It was the second straight year of clean-energy job growth in the state, which is slowly climbing back from a sharp drop in jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The addition of 2,374 jobs in 2022 brought the state just shy of the 61,944 pre-pandemic jobs – but Arizona is not the only state still feeling the effects of the pandemic.
“Actually a lot of states haven’t” returned to 2019 employment levels, said Michael Timberlake, communications director for E2. “It’s about 50-50 on states that have fully surpassed their pre-COVID numbers.”
Timberlake said the U.S. as a whole lost more than 600,000 clean-energy jobs in the depths of the pandemic, but had regained about half the lost jobs by the end of 2020, for a total of just over 3 million. By 2022, the E2 report said, the number had climbed back above 3.3 million – just short of the 3.4 million recorded in 2019.
“The industry had a lot of room to grow, you had all the jobs that were going to be created that got stalled, pushed back, delayed, canceled, like a lot of projects were canceled,” Timberlake said of the pandemic drop.
“And then obviously, the people you know, getting people back to work … a lot of that was just the whole industry getting back on track,” he said.
The report said construction was the largest clean-energy industry for Arizona in 2022, with 35,923 employees accounting for more than half the total in the state. Timberlake said construction includes everything from building solar and wind farms to installing energy-efficient systems in people’s homes.
Energy-efficiency was the largest sector of jobs in Arizona, followed by renewable energy, like solar, wind and geothermal jobs.
“I think, unsurprisingly, Arizona has a very high percentage of solar energy jobs,” Timberlake said of the 9,627 solar-power jobs in the state in 2022. That was the sixth-highest among states.
Clean vehicles were another area where the state performed relatively well, bolstered by the presence of electric-vehicle manufacturers like Lucid Motors and Nikola Motors.
Greater Phoenix Chamber Chief Innovation Officer Jennifer Mellor said those auto manufacturers are part of a ripple effect, attributable to the state’s overall welcoming business climate.
“We’ve been very, very successful in recruiting new companies and new industries outside of clean energy, in addition to clean energy,” Mellor said, citing the growth of semiconductor and health care jobs in the state.
“What’s happening is we’re seeing this rippling effect of other companies related to those electric companies, related to those electric vehicles and others that are coming into the market,” Mellor said.
The increase in clean-energy construction jobs came during a time of “a significant labor shortage in the construction industry over the last several years,” Mellor said. That’s an area she said the chamber is working to improve.
“That’s actually something the Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation had been heavily working on through our ‘Build Your Future Arizona’ campaign, and really trying to change the perceptions of the trades and encourage others to go into those high-wage, high-demand opportunities,” she said.
Most of the state’s clean-energy jobs were in Maricopa County, which was sixth-highest in the nation with 47,775, according to the report. Pinal County was 23rd in the nation for clean-energy job growth, climbing just over 50%, from 857 in 2021 to 1,289 in 2022, the report said.
Timberlake said clean-energy employment in Arizona last year surpassed pre-pandemic levels in all sectors except energy efficiency. But he expects the state “will surpass it next year. According to all trends, it’s just a little bit lagging.”