April was worse than March for the struggling U.S. clean energy industry, as the sector saw job losses double and total layoffs climb to 600,000 jobs thus far this year, according to an industry analysis released Wednesday.
In April alone, 447,208 clean energy workers filed new unemployment claims, according to the analysis of federal labor data conducted by clean energy advocacy groups. Those groups include E2 and the American Council on Renewable Energy.
Declines for the renewable energy sector, representing 17% of its employment, come after robust job growth in 2019, with total employment in the sector totaling roughly 3.4 million.
But the industry has struggled to get broad economic relief in any of the three massive legislative packages Congress has moved in recent months in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
And estimated job losses in wind, solar, and others in renewable energy for March were revised up to 147,100—from more than 106,000 previously—based on more recent employment data.
Quarter of Workforce
The lost jobs, stemming from a combination of social distancing efforts, declining investor confidence, and slowing demand due to the overall declines in the U.S. economy, could approach 850,000 by June, according to the report, authored by BW Research Partnership.
The group said that number represents a quarter of the sector’s workforce and is a conservative estimate, “if no actions are taken to support the clean energy industry and its workers.”
The sector’s previous projection of losing half a million workers by June, which would account for 15% of all clean energy jobs, “has already been surpassed,” the report said.
Many of the hardest hit states are in the South—Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina—or in Rust Belt states that have seen healthy growth in the clean energy industry in recent years, including Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan. Texas, Washington, and California were also hit hard, the report said.
Dara Bortman, co-founder of Pennsylvania-based Exact Solar, a solar installer, said small companies like hers have been particularly affected.
Her company has moved to have its installers drive separately to job sites to ensure social distancing, but the company is also having to become experts in procurement, such as pursuing personal protective equipment to protect its employees from the coronavirus.