California is one of the nation’s top green job producing states. This should come as no surprise, not only because of the state’s overall population, but also because California has always been a forward thinker when it comes to environmental legislation. A new report from Next 10 shows that green jobs increased by 36 percent in the state between 1995 and 2008 compared to overall job growth of only 13 percent.

The report went a step further and looked at how green jobs fared during the economic downturn. The recession began in December 2007 and while overall unemployment in California fell by 1 percent in 2007-2008, green jobs continued to grow, albeit at a slower pace — 5 percent.

There were some surprising figures in the Many Shades of Green: Diversity and Distribution of California’s Green Jobs (PDF) report, most notably the fact that the Sacramento area experienced the biggest growth in green jobs between 1995 and 2008. Sacramento and neighboring cities experienced an 87 percent overall green job growth with a 157 percent increase in air and environment jobs and a 141 percent increase in renewable energy generation jobs.

Air and environment jobs consist of environmental consulting and remediation as well as emissions monitoring and control. The state’s stringent emissions standards have provided good, green jobs to thousands in the state. Job growth in this segment remained relatively steady between 1995-2005 but jumped by 24 percent between 2005 and 2008.

Although Sacramento is California’s capital city, I expected the San Francisco Bay area to lead green job growth in the state. Even though the Bay area didn’t see the highest growth rate, it is the region with the most green jobs — nearly 42,000. Of these 42,000, about 7,000 are in the energy generation segment, with most of those in solar-related fields.

Green jobs aren’t just limited to major metropolitan areas like Sacramento and the Bay Area. The San Joaquin Valley, an area with a long farming tradition, experienced a 48 percent increase in green job growth between 1995 and 2008. Most of these jobs are the result of wind energy projects in the area.

After reading through this report, I implore green jobs naysayers to take another look at the benefits of a green economy. Green jobs are in demand and can play an important role in the economic recovery of the nation.

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