U.S. energy employment accounted for 162,000 new jobs in 2017, according to a new report out from the Energy Futures Initiative (EFI) and the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) The 2018 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER) tracks changes in U.S. energy employment unaccounted for in the Bureau of Labor’s statistics.

The report analyzes employment data across the “four sectors of the labor market,” said David Foster during a briefing for Business Forward’s network of nationwide business leaders, but noted that this report is “much more than simply counting of jobs and an assignment of numbers.” In the energy sector, “business models have evolved over the years” and this report does the important job of tracking these changes, specifically: “the workforce demographics,” asking employers what their “hiring expectations are for the next 12 months…their hiring difficulties,” and then providing specific data on jobs in each industrial sector to see what has been over or undercounted and account for the real data.

For example, as Foster explained, “A year ago, the U.S. employment report that we put out on a national basis for electric power generation, you can see…that number was 92,817 but when you examined all the serious undercounting that went on that number was actually double,” and “in nuclear it was about a 50% undercounting.”

Overall, energy employment grew by 162,000 new jobs in 2017. Energy efficiency was the largest growth driver, adding 63,000 new jobs. For the first time since 2010, solar energy employment declined, losing 24,000 jobs, mostly in California and Massachusetts. Natural gas added 19,000 new jobs.

“No other study on labor markets in the country really tries to examine what is going on with energy efficiency,” Foster said. Other reports count energy efficiency jobs as construction jobs, which does not capture the hiring difficulty energy efficiency employers face.

“Employers see this energy efficiency as a real growth center for…the economy,” but “finding people with the skills to do energy efficiency work has become increasingly difficult,” Foster said. Within the energy efficient construction industry, 83 percent of employers report they had either a somewhat or very difficult time finding qualified candidates in 2017. Overall, 70 percent of energy employers had a difficult time hiring.

Listen to the briefing in full and view the slides, or download the report here.