If the US wants to promote the much-vaunted “job creators,” it should do more to help the solar-energy industry grow. That’s the takeaway from...

If the US wants to promote the much-vaunted “job creators,” it should do more to help the solar-energy industry grow.

That’s the takeaway from The Solar Foundation’s second annual Solar Jobs Census, which finds that, from 2010 to 2011, employment in the US solar industry grew at a much faster rate than did overall employment. As of this August, the nation had a total of 100,237 solar-energy-related jobs, up from 93,000 in 2010. That’s a growth rate of 6.8 percent (after eliminating utility jobs, which were not included in the 2010 Solar Jobs Census, so not counted as “growth” in 2011), compared to the national average of 0.7 percent. And it’s even better than the numbers seen in fossil fuel power generation, which experienced a 2 percent net job loss since last year.

It’s little surprise that California has the most people — 25,575 — employed in solar industries. Other states in the top 10, though, don’t include only Sun Belt players. They are, respectively: Colorado, Arizona, Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, Texas, Oregon, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

Nearly half of the solar-energy installation firms covered by the census said they have plans to add new jobs over the next 12 months. Again, that’s significant in an economy where overall employment is projected to grow by just 1.4 percent in the coming  year, the report noted.

“These survey responses merely reflect employers’ best estimates at expected new hiring, but it demonstrates a clear growth pattern for the industry and tremendous optimism by employers in the industry,” said Andrea Luecke, executive director of The Solar Foundation. She added that employers last year had expected to hire even more people than they did, but held back because of “stalled legislative initiatives and continued policy uncertainty.”

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