U.S. DOE releases report on energy sector employment

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has shared the findings of its 2021 U.S. Energy Employment Report (USEER). The study began in 2016 to better track and understand employment within key energy sectors.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the energy sector had been one of the fastest growing job markets in the U.S. From 2015 to 2019, the annual growth rate for energy employment was 3% – double compared to 1.5% in the general economy. In 2020, after wide-spread economic losses due to the pandemic, USEER analysis shows that by the end of the year, the energy sector was already rebounding – adding back 560,000 jobs. 

“Although we are still grappling with the economic shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country is turning a corner and a strong energy workforce is critical to our full recovery,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm. “The U.S. Energy Employment Report provides us with the best available data into the energy sector and we are proud to have DOE’s experts once again produce this crucial analysis. As the report shows, energy employment is on the rebound, and with the robust investments in President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda we are set to supercharge the energy job market.”

The analysis showed there was a total of 839,000 jobs lost in 2020, a 10% decline from 8.4 million to 7.5 million jobs. 

Sectors with the largest declines are:

  • Energy-efficiency sectors declined 11.4%, down to 2.1 million jobs
  • Electric power generation, transmission, distribution, storage and fuels declined 9.8%, down to 3.1 million jobs
  • Motor vehicles declined 9%, down to 2.3 million jobs

Continued energy investments throughout the year prevented declines in some areas and resulted in job growth for electric vehicles, hybrid electric vehicles, wind generation and battery storage.

Key investments to modernize the U.S. electric grid, fuels infrastructure, buildings and transportation, such as those in the President’s Build Back Better agenda and the infrastructure plan, will likely help recoup the job losses from 2020 and return the sector to positive growth rates in 2021.

Hydropower stats

According to the report, hydroelectric power generation employed 63,131 workers across the U.S. in 2020, a decline of 4,640 jobs. Most of this employment (51,880 workers, or 82%) was in traditional hydroelectric generation technologies, while the remainder was in low-impact hydroelectric technologies (11,251 workers). Each of these sectors declined in 2020, losing 3,588 and 1,052 jobs, respectively. Utilities make up 27% of hydroelectric generation employment in 2020, while manufacturing made up 26% and professional business services supported nearly 18% and construction supported 15% of employment.

In 2020, 87% of construction employers reported that hiring new workers was somewhat difficult or very difficult (with 43% reporting that hiring was very difficult). Eighty-nine percent of all hydropower employers reported that hiring new workers was somewhat difficult or very difficult (with 59% reporting that hiring was very difficult).

Overall, hydroelectric employers anticipate 2.6% growth in 2021. Professional services expect to grow by about 11% while utilities, the largest segment, expected less than 1% growth.

In 2020, women represented 31% of the hydroelectric power generation workforce. These technologies are more diverse than the national workforce average, including higher representation of Asian workers. More low-impact hydroelectric generation workers were Hispanic or Latino than the national workforce average in 2020. The share of Veterans employment also exceeded the national average. Unionization coverage is nearly double the national average in the private sector of 6%.

Pumped hydro was addressed in the transmission, distribution and storage section of the report. The sector employed 7,822 people in 2020, down 726 from 2019. Employment growth anticipated for 2021 is 1.6%.


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