US report highlights key employment trends in biofuels

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A report released earlier this month by the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) and the Energy Futures Initiative (EFI) outlines key employment statistics in the US energy sector for 2018.

The ‘2019 U.S. Energy and Employment’ report details current employment figures and future trends in sectors including ethanol, biodiesel, and cellulosic fuels.

Based on an analysis of employer data collected during Q4 2018, the report found that the energy economy expanded by more than 150,000 net new jobs in 2018 to reach 6.7 million people, representing almost 5% of the US economy.

Corn ethanol fuels

Employment in the corn ethanol fuels sector represented approximately 3% of the US fuels workforce in 2018 – or 35,055 jobs – according to the report, with 500 jobs added throughout the year.

The sector is largely comprised of agriculture, manufacturing, and wholesale trade, distribution and transport, which together accounted for over 91% of workers. The remaining percentage comprised those working in professional and business services.

In 2018, 88% of manufacturing employers in corn ethanol reported that hiring was somewhat or very difficult. For 2019, employers in the sector expect more than 10% growth, the report adds.

In terms of demographics, three in every ten workers in corn ethanol fuels in 2018 were women, and less than one in ten were of Hispanic or Latino origin.

The sector is disproportionately older, with 27% of employees aged over 55 years.

Other ethanol and non-woody biomass fuels, including biodiesel

This sector employed almost 2% of the US fuels workforce in 2018, providing 20,074 jobs.

Employers are expecting 1.5% job growth in 2019, with hiring concentrated in manufacturing and professional services.

Almost one third of employees supporting these fuels were women, while 15% were Hispanic or Latino. Other employers were more ethnically diverse than the overall workforce, exceeding national averages for employment of American Indians, Asians, and mixed race persons.

Woody biomass fuel for energy and cellulosic biofuels

In the US, this sector supported 33,166 jobs in 2015, just under 3% of the fuels workforce, and added over 1,700 jobs throughout 2018. More than 50% of employment in woody biomass fuels was in agriculture, followed by professional services.

Employers in the sector expect more than 8% job growth in 2019.

The workforce is less diverse than the nation as a whole, with 6% reported to be Hispanic or Latino, 5% Asian, and 4% Black or African American. Approximately 28% of workers in the sector were women, well below the national workforce average of 47%.

Highlighting key impacts across the energy industry in 2018, the report noted: “The year 2018 marked another year in the evolution of the US energy system, one in which market forces, technology development and maturation, tax policy, and declining federal regulation (countered by increased regulation in some states) affected the changing profile of our energy workforce.

“In spite of one of the highest levels of employment in recent US history, the traditional energy and energy efficiency sectors continued to outperform the economy as a whole, adding 152,000 new jobs.”