The U.S. solar industry employed 231,474 workers in 2020, a 6.7% decrease from 2019 due to pandemic restrictions and increased labor productivity. This emerges from the National Solar Jobs Census 2020 recently published by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), The Solar Foundation, The National Foundation, Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) and BW Research.
The decline in jobs was largely evenly distributed across states as many companies have not yet reached pre-pandemic employment levels. Labor productivity also increased in all three market segments – 19% in residential, 2% in non-residential and 32% in utilities. Less labor-intensive utility-scale installations contributed to a record amount of solar capacity added in 2020. However, the pandemic took a toll on residential jobs over the summer, and those jobs did not fully recover by the end of the year.
Installation and construction related employment continued to be the largest segment in the industry, accounting for 67% of all jobs. Of all installation work, 55% were in the residential sector, 18% in the commercial sector, 8% in the communal solar sector and 19% on the utility scale. Importantly, manufacturing workers made up 14% of all those employed in US manufacturing, while sales and distribution and operations and maintenance made up 11% and 4% of all workers, respectively.
The new numbers come as lawmakers debate infrastructure spending that could boost the solar workforce with hundreds of thousands of jobs over the next decade. SEIA analysis shows the solar industry will need to reach more than 900,000 workers to meet President Joe Biden's clean energy goal by 2035.
“The solar industry continues to support hundreds of thousands of jobs in all 50 states, and even during a pandemic, our companies have largely been able to keep their employees in the workplace,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, President and CEO of SEIA. “We now have an opportunity to quadruple our workforce, create diversity, and support underserved communities by taking policies that incentivize solar and storage deployment and provide long-term security for solar companies.”
Click here to download the report, view the interactive charts, and explore the status map.