Black Workers Lag behind Whites in the Energy Sector

By Freddie Allen

Energy jobs are growing faster than the national average and energy-related sectors are less diverse than the national workforce, according to the 2018 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER).

“The nation’s energy sector employed 6.5 million Americans in 2017, up 133,000 jobs from the year prior,” a press release about the report noted. “This two percent growth rate exceeded the national average of 1.7 percent. Jobs in the energy sectors accounted for nearly 7 percent of all new jobs nationwide in 2017.”

National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) and the Energy Futures Initiative (EFI) released the report last week. NASEO is the only national non-profit association for the governor-designated energy officials from each of the 56 states and territories, according to the group’s website. EFI provides policymakers, industry leaders, NGOs with data driven, unbiased policy recommendations, “to advance a cleaner, safer, more affordable and more secure energy future.”

The report said that the companies surveyed anticipate roughly 6.2 percent employment growth for 2018.

Despite the positive growth trends, ethnic and racial minorities account for a smaller share of the workforce in the energy-related sectors than their corresponding national averages, the report said. Hispanic or Latino workers account for 10-19 percent of the labor force in energy-related sectors, compared to 17 percent in the overall economy. Black workers hold 5-9 percent of the jobs in energy-related sectors and account for 12 percent of the national workforce.

The USEER examines four sectors of the energy economy: Electric Power Generation and Fuels; Transmission, Distribution, and Storage; Energy Efficiency; and Motor Vehicles.

Blacks account for 9 percent of the electric power generation workforce (76,985) compared to White workers who hold 70 percent of the electric power generation jobs (615,696).

Blacks workers account for 5 percent of the Fuels workforce (53,488) and Whites account for 84 percent of the Fuels workforce (903,045).

African Americans account for 8 percent of the energy efficiency workforce (176,303) compared to White workers that hold 78 percent of the jobs in that sector (1,748,399).

Blacks hold 180,031 of the jobs in the Motor Vehicles sector accounting for 8 percent of the workforce compared to White workers who hold 1,832,239 of the jobs and 78 percent of the Motor Vehicles workforce.

“The USEER has proven to be an important tool for state energy officials, who will use this unique set of ‘all of the above’ energy jobs data to inform policy development and planning,” said David Terry, the executive director of the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO), in a press release about the report.

During a presentation about the report on Capitol Hill, Ernest J. Moniz, the former Energy Secretary under President Barack Obama, called the report a foundation for state governments, non-profit organizations and businesses to analyze the data and develop policy proposals.

Moniz, who is also the president and CEO of EFI, noted that although many industry leaders expressed concerns about hiring challenges in a very tight labor market, there were still opportunities to recruit and train people to fill jobs. The former energy secretary added that apprentice programs prosper when there are partnerships between state agencies and labor union groups; pre-apprenticeship programs can also aid in addressing some of the diversity issues found in the energy industry today.

“The competitiveness of this sector is important,” Moniz said. “We know that the definition of full employment does not mean that there aren’t people who are available, with appropriate training, to come in to the jobs.”

This article was originally published at

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