The Top Five Cities for Green Jobs

November 13, 2014

If you think green jobs are a fad, think again. While so many other occupations have been roiled by the boom and bust cycles since 2001, green jobs seem to prove the adage that “slow and steady wins the race.” They haven’t seen spectacular gains or dizzying losses from one year to the next, but their long-term growth has been impressive. The number of green jobs has risen more than 16 percent since 2001, three times faster than jobs overall.

So what exactly is a green job? Our definition of “green jobs”  are those that that reduce pollution and protect our environment and natural resources, and include jobs for environmental engineers, environmental engineering technicians, environmental scientists, environmental science and protection technicians, conservation scientists, nuclear engineers, nuclear engineering technicians, foresters, forest and conservation technicians, forest and conservation workers, and zoologists and wildlife biologists. And based on our analysis, those environmental professionals will continue to find new opportunities as the stakes of protecting our climate and natural resources continue to rise.  Only people with excellent STEM skills need apply.

Based on our analysis of the 100 largest metro areas, the top five cities for green jobs are:

5. Oxnard/Thousand Oaks/Ventura, California

Oxnard shoreline

Located on California’s sunny Southern Coast, the Oxnard/Thousand Oaks area is surely an inspiration to environmentalists. Its well-established agricultural and tourism industries depend on the health of the area’s natural resources. Green jobs are almost twice as prevalent in Oxnard as in the nation overall. That adds up to more than 1250 jobs.

4. Boise, Idaho

Boise at dusk

Boise has almost as many green jobs as Oxnard—1,220—but that represents an even bigger slice of the Boise area’s total workforce. Like the Oxnard area, Boise combines a robust high-tech sector with established industries in agriculture, energy and outdoor tourism. This mix of industries creates fertile ground for a green economy.

3. Augusta-Richmond County, Georgia

Augusta park

The Augusta area probably owes its place on this top five list to the Savannah River Site, a nuclear facility that has amped up efforts to protect and clean its surroundings over the last decade. With 1,100 green jobs concentrated in a much smaller overall workforce than Boise’s, Augusta has more green industry opportunities than any other city its size.

2. Knoxville, Tennessee

Knoxville at night

Knoxville might not leap to mind as a magnet for green jobs, but the metro area is in fact a major national center for energy innovation. Home to both the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Knoxville area offers many jobs in clean energy, land management, and environmental stewardship.  Though Knoxville is no larger than Oxnard, it boasts more than 1,800 green jobs. That number will surely grow: the TVA aspires to be one of the nation’s leading clean energy suppliers by 2020.

1. Sacramento, California

Sacramento tower bridge

Sacramento takes the top spot for its deep commitment to green industry. The Sacramento area has three times more STEM jobs than a typical city its size. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District is a top generator of green power, and city leaders have made green building a priority. This focus has spawned a robust green tech sector as businesses spring up to build new green buildings or retrofit old ones. 

Methodology: Change the Equation analyzed jobs data from EMSI, an economic and employment data firm. Metro areas are ranked according to the “location quotient” of their green jobs, a measure of how prevalent those jobs are as a share of the entire workforce. Across the country, the average location quotient of green jobs is 1. The location quotients for our top five metro areas are as follows: Oxnard, CA--1.74; Boise, ID--2.03; Augusta/Richmond County, GA--2.07; Knoxville, TN--2.17; Sacramento, CA--3.13.

Tags: Top 5, jobs & workforce