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Green Jobs Stimulate Rural Economy

posted on April 28, 2011

Despite economic improvement, Bernanke acknowledged the recovery is hampered by persistent unemployment.

According to the Labor Department, the number of people filing initial claims for unemployment benefits increased by 25,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 429,000... the highest weekly figure since January.

Job creation, particularly ones in the private sector, play a pivotal role in economic recovery. One effort favored by the Obama Administration focuses on the creation of "green jobs." And this week participants in one initiative receiving nearly $3.9 million in stimulus funding measured their success.

Green Jobs Stimulate Rural Economy

When the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was signed into law in 2009, President Obama intended to create green jobs to help stimulate the economy.

The fine print included an accounting of those jobs. Six grants were award by the federal government covering initiatives in 20 U.S. states, including the effort known as the Northern Plains and Rocky Mountain Consortium. Geographically, the consortium includes Montana, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa. The group's main objective is to take a snapshot of the green economy in those states and submit the data back to the U.S. Department of Labor as part of the Stimulus Bill.

The city of Newton, Iowa has gained national exposure for its economic story. It was once home to the storied appliance manufacturer Maytag. Following a buyout by Whirlpool, Maytag's Newton operation was closed in 2007.

But the winds of change would soon bring new opportunities to Newton. And in 2009, a plant that makes towers for turbines, inside of Maytag's former facility, was chosen as the backdrop for President Obama's green jobs tour.

While the president's interest in green jobs could be seen as politically motivated, economists in the consortium say they want no part of that.

Barbara Wagner, Montana Department of Labor: "What we try to do as economist is back away from that and think about how this focus on energy efficiency is changing the way we do business and how does it impact our economy. This green movement is a part of a never ending movement to make businesses more efficient by reducing costs and making businesses more profitable."

Barbara Wagner of the Montana Department of Labor is the lead economic analyst in the consortium. She says 3.5 percent of all jobs in the consortium states are green jobs.

Barbara Wagner, Montana Department of Labor: "We found green jobs in those industries too, because environmental engineers, hydrologists, that are working to make that production more efficient than it has been in the past. We consider those to be green jobs, too, but they're making sure their own businesses are compiling with environmental regulations, and being as clean as they possibly could be."

The final report isn't due until the end of May, but some trends have started to emerge.

Eric Thompson, Bureau of Business Research, University of Nebraska Lincoln: "Some of the long-standing green occupations will continue to grow. Those jobs will continue to grow as jobs grow in the economy overall. And there are some new emerging green jobs in renewable energy and so forth that will be another source of growth."

Eric Thomson from the University of Nebraska's Bureau of Business Research says some jobs classified as green, like construction workers who install energy- efficient furnaces and other improvements will grow as building picks up to rebuild the economy for new energy-efficient homes and business.

Other new and emerging technologies like solar, geothermal and even algae production were also presented at the conference.

The report is a snapshot in time, with most of the data gathered during the 2nd quarter of 2009.

Organizers hope they're work will result in better data collection, that will benefit the labor market.

Todd Younkin, Montana Labor Market Information Director, Consortium Chair: "We're hope folks are able to take the results of the research, apply it to the workforce, that's the biggest goal, how do we prepare tomorrow's workforce so we can most adequately match up the jobs seekers and employers, reduce turnover and better the economic outcomes for all involved."


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