Government Accountability Office Report on Green Jobs

September 12, 2013

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a report announcing that the "[Department of] Labor's Green Jobs Efforts Highlight Challenges of Targeted Training Programs for Emerging Industries... Of the $595 million identified by Labor as having been appropriated or allocated specifically for green jobs activities since 2009, approximately $501 million went toward efforts with training and support services as their primary objective," says Benjamin Zycher, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

  • Of the $595 million, over 84 percent was spent on "training and support services" rather than actual employment.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that total green employment increased by about 158,000 jobs between 2010 and 2011.
  • The real problem is definitional: Of that total increase, 102,000 jobs were in construction, largely as a result of changes in the "energy efficiency" of construction materials.

The creation of "green jobs" as a side effect of various policies is a benefit for the workers hired (or for those whose wages rise with increased market competition for their services). But for the economy as a whole, that use of scarce labor is a cost because those workers no longer would be available for productive activity elsewhere.

In short, an expanding "green" sector must be accompanied by a decline in other sectors, whether relative or absolute, and creation of "green jobs" must be accompanied by destruction of jobs elsewhere. At best, the BLS count of green employment is a gross figure that ignores the larger employment effects of government "green" policies.

Source: Benjamin Zycher, "A Fascinating Report from the Government Accountability Office," The American, September 4, 2013.

 

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