The Evidence Is In: Green Jobs Are a Total Waste

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In case anyone has any doubt, the evidence is in. Green jobs training programs are a waste of taxpayer money. So says the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Labor in a report on the $500 million program, published on Thursday.

Assistant Inspector General Elliot Lewis wrote that of the $500 million authorized in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the stimulus bill) for green jobs training programs, $329 million was spent by June 30, 2012. Of the 113,000 people who participated in the green jobs training programs, 72 percent have completed training; 27 percent of participants got a job; 22 percent of participants got a job relating to their training; and 10 percent kept their jobs for at least six months.

That's a cost of about $28,000 for each job retained for six months or more.

The report was requested by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa. It follows a prior report published on September 30, 2011, and reaches similar conclusions.

Workforce training programs have generally been costly, without fulfilling their goals. From the 1970s Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, to the 1980s Job Training Partnership Act, to the multitude of programs today, federal job training programs have disappointed their proponents.

However, green jobs training programs fare even worse than other Labor Department programs. Let's look at the "entered employment rate," defined as the percentage who start a job after completing the training program. This measure, by the way, excludes those who drop out of the training programs before completion. For the green jobs programs, 32,000 dropped out without finishing, a waste of their time and taxpayer funds.

For green job training programs, 38 percent of those who completed training entered employment as of June 2012. For the quarter ending March 2012, a slightly different time period, 56 percent of Workforce Investment Act Adult Program trainees entered employment, as did 71 percent of the Registered Apprenticeship program trainees.

Then, consider the "employment retention rate," which is the percent of trained employees who kept their jobs for at least six months. For workers from green jobs training programs, it's 38 percent, compared with 81 percent from Workforce Investment Act Adult program and 86 percent for the Registered Apprenticeship program.

In fact, the green jobs training programs have the lowest entered employment rates and employment retention rates of all Labor Department training programs.

But the results of the program are even worse than these numbers suggest.

First, of those workers who completed the training and entered employment, 38 percent already had jobs, and got a new job with the same employer or another one. Unlike other Labor Department training programs, employed workers are permitted to enroll.

Second, of all those who completed training, almost half went through programs of five days or less. That's substantially less than other Labor Department training programs.

Third, of all the green-trained workers who got jobs, the largest group, 36 percent, was in the category of "energy efficient building, construction, and retrofitting." That means jobs such as insulation and weather stripping, not substantially different from other construction jobs. The next largest group, 34 percent, was employed in "an industry not specified as green."

Relatively few green trained workers got jobs in renewable electric power (5 percent), the manufacture of sustainable products (4 percent), energy efficiency assessment (3 percent), energy efficient vehicles (3 percent), deconstruction and materials use (2 percent), or biofuels (1 percent).

One surprise was that 84 percent of the participants in green job training programs were male. This is a large proportion, especially since women get 58 percent of all BA degrees, 63 percent of all MA degrees, and over half of all PhDs awarded. But perhaps women are too smart to enroll in a program with record low employment retention rates.

It's clear that by the Labor Department's original criteria the program did not meet its original goals. The number of people who retained employment 6 months or more, 11,613, represents 16 percent of the Department's target of 71,017 jobs retained.

The Labor Department's Assistant Inspector General study reveals a deeply troubled government program The next time a government official touts green jobs, remember: this is a program that does not work.


Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is senior fellow and director of Economics21 at the Manhattan Institute. Follow her on Twitter: @FurchtgottRoth.   

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