A new study shows the electric power industry is responsible for nearly 7 million jobs in the U.S., about one in every 20 workers.
More importantly, a majority of the 2.7 million people directly employed by the power industry enjoy the kind of long-term, well-paid jobs that build America’s middle class and provide a positive economic ripple effect in the communities where they live.
That’s the takeaway from the Powering America study, released Aug. 2 by the Edison Electric Institute, the American Public Power Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, who between them represent the overwhelming majority of U.S. electricity providers. Hundreds of thousands of IBEW members in the utility and construction branches work for utility companies that participated in the project.
“The electric power industry is a major driver of our economy, providing millions of good jobs in communities across the nation,” said IBEW International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. “The IBEW is working closely with our management partners to maintain the best trained energy workforce in the nation so we as an industry can continue to support a healthy economy and good jobs.”
“Good jobs,” are the key, says Utility Department Director Donnie Colston. “The utility industry is critical to every single job in America,” he said. “We keep the lights on and the computers powered up and the machines humming. And these good-paying, long term jobs in the utility industry are as important to our communities as the electricity they provide.”
The study shows that, in 2015, the electric power industry’s median annual wages were $73,000 – nearly double the national median income. Moreover, most employees work in the industry for more than 15 years on average.
“These are careers, not just jobs,” Colston said. “And the IBEW is proud to represent skilled tradesmen and tradeswoman and professionals in the industry.”
The ripple effect of these well-paid utility industry careers is measured in the Powering America survey, with economists calculating that the 2.7 million people directly employed by electric companies and their associated contractors and supply-chain providers generate another 4.4 million jobs in communities across the U.S.
That’s because the $274 billion the industry estimates it contributes to the U.S. economy is amplified when those dollars are spent by workers on cars or homes, groceries or clothes, restaurants or vacations. In total, the study figures the total economic impact of the utility industry is more than $880 billion each year – approximately 5 percent of America’s gross domestic product.
The electrical industry invests more than $100 billion each year to improve and modernize America’s energy infrastructure, working to make the grid more dynamic, more reliable, more secure, cleaner and smarter for consumers.
They’re also helping to train the next generation of utility industry professionals, in many cases working alongside partners like the IBEW.
“These are skilled trades,” Colston said, “and that investment in people and talent is just as important as putting a billion dollars into a transmission line. Without well-trained professionals, none of this works, and recognizing the value of that is an important part of our partnership with the utility companies.”
Even with the sizeable investments in people and infrastructure, the study shows that electricity remains a great value for customers. In 2016, residential electricity accounted for just 1.4 percent of total consumer spending, its lowest share since the 1950s.
“We’re proud to work with the utility industry to bring safe, reliable, affordable electricity to homes and businesses across America,” Stephenson said. “And the numbers in this study illustrate that well-paid middle class workers have a lifting effect on the prosperity of entire communities. For us, for the energy industry and for the American economy, that’s a win-win.”