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Missouri clean energy jobs rebounding after decline last year

Missouri’s clean energy job market faced a considerable decline during 2020’s economic downturn but still managed to bounce back by the end of the year, according to a recent study.

More than 9,300 clean energy workers filed for unemployment in Missouri at the peak of the economic crisis tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the 2020 Clean Jobs Midwest report from Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) and the Clean Energy Trust.

Final employment numbers dropped by more than 8 percent compared to 2019, breaking a three-year streak of continued job growth. Still, the industry managed to snap back somewhat, making up for more than 9 percent of the jobs lost with 51,500 Missourians working in the industry by the end of the year. 

The report also found the first year-to-year decrease in sector job growth for Missouri since 2017. Despite the downturn, clean energy employment managed to bounce back faster than the state’s overall workforce due to the plethora of jobs available in the growing market. 

“Now in its sixth year, the Clean Jobs Midwest report offers a snapshot of the Midwest’s clean energy industry. These jobs prove to be resilient, rebounding faster than the overall Midwest workforce,” said Clean Energy Trust Managing Director Ian Adams. “We see the clean energy industry as ripe with opportunity for innovation and growth and look forward to supporting the impressive climate entrepreneurs in this space.”  

Clean energy jobs are reportedly available in every county in the state. While large cities accounted for a majority of the job market, more than 11,500 rural Missourians worked in the industry by the end of 2020, making up more than 20 percent of the state’s clean energy workforce.

Small businesses made up around 70 percent of the market last year, with more than 37,860 Missourians employed by energy efficiency projects. Around 2,870 workers were employed by solar operations, with nearly 1,300 working in wind generation. 

Around 6,000 Missouri employees were reportedly working with advanced transportation, such as electric vehicles (EVs), by the end of the year. EVs have been a growing market in the U.S. and Missouri as utility providers and cities enhance their networks. EV jobs grew more than 9 percent last year to employ more than 1,450 workers. 

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are interested in EV infrastructure as well: Congress hopes to earmark more than $7.5 billion for charging stations around the country as part of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Missouri is expected to receive $99 million over the next five years to expand its network, in addition to the opportunity to vie for an additional $2.5 billion in grant funding. 

Overall employment in Missouri decreased sharply last March following the spread of COVID-19 and the state’s stay-at-home orders. Many industries were forced to lay off and furlough workers, leading to high unemployment rates across various industries. 

Last year’s study found the clean energy industry employed 56,486 workers in Missouri in 2019, identifying it as one of the fastest-growing Missouri job markets with an employment increase of 4 percent since 2017. Clean energy was projected to see an 8.7 percent growth rate with around 5,000 new jobs for Missouri in 2020 if not for the pandemic, the highest growth rate expected in the Midwest.    

E2 is a group of nonpartisan business leaders advocating for policies benefiting the clean energy sector and the economy, while Clean Energy Trust is a firm that invests in startups focused on renewable resources. Their reports analyze employment rates in renewable energy in 12 midwestern states. Released every year since 2016, the reports have shown a substantial increase in employment in the clean energy market in Missouri and the Midwest as a whole.