Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The LA Times and Green Jobs: Stupid, Lazy, or Politically Correct?

The LA Times on its home page had this story, by, with the headline "Job growth in California is going green" and the subhead "From January 2007 to January 2008 green jobs increased 5% while total jobs declined 1%."

The SF Gate version of this story noted that "Green jobs just 1% of total in California" and that furthermore, the report cited does not take into account jobs lost during 2008-2009. [ is the web version of the San Francisco Chronicle.] The only question is, was the LA Times reporting stupid, lazy, or simply terminally politically correct.

The LA Times story itself, read the whole thing, seems essentially a re-write of the Press Release by Reporters are notoriously lazy, never more so than in the present day, and the dirty little secret about most of the content in the major newspapers is that most of it is simply re-written (or not) of press releases from politically correct lobbying groups.

The core of the (brief) LA Times report by Hsu is that "green jobs" (which include things like carpentry and electricians) "grew" an astonishing 5% between January 2007 and January 2008, while the overall California economy lost 1% of jobs during the same period. Money quote from the LAT:

The industry is still too small to drag the state out of its jobs slump but could at least nudge the economy toward recovery.

"Green jobs are not a panacea," said Noel Perry, a venture capitalist and founder of Next 10. "But this is the foundation of the green economy, and all the trend lines are up."

In contrast, the SFGate story is solid. Money quote from the reporting:

But taken together, those jobs represent less than 1 percent of employment in the state, according to the report's authors. Green industries have great promise for employment, but they haven't delivered yet.

Reading the reporting, you can learn that report has implications for California's "Green" mandates in counting the jobs that (were) already there, but notes that they could have been destroyed in layoffs during 2008-2009. [They probably were, note how carefully the Next 10 Report avoids any 2008-9 figures, probably because they told a different story.] The Bay Area has mostly energy-generation jobs (7,003), tied to Bay Area research universities, particularly Stanford and Berkeley. The LA area has 1,072 people working on alternative fuels and vehicles. Nearly every job requires massive and continuous federal subsidies, the SFGate article noting that Bay Area solar panel manufacturer Solyndra Inc opened a Bay Area facility after getting a $535 million federal loan guarantee. A careful reader will note that "Green" requires federal "green" i.e. loan guarantees, grants, money to research universities, and employed less than 1% of the total jobs in the State before the recession really hit.

Indeed, the Next 10 report notes that California jobs "dropped" by 1% total while "green" jobs increased by 5%. What neither the LAT nor SFGate note, is that in actual fact, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics, California's jobs increased during that period for a total of 183,000 jobs, or 1%. [Without seasonal adjustment. With seasonal adjustment the jobs increased about the same amount, or 241,000 jobs]

Its hard to credit the report's accuracy when the basic data about California's jobs show an increase not decrease (for Jan 2007 to Jan 2008), and further that this can be determined by five minutes reading on the BLS website.

What then, to make of the LAT reporting? Lazy, stupid, or politically correct? Likely, a combination of all three. Reporters are lazy, and will take anything that is perceived as "authoritative" and simply quote it verbatim. You can see reporter Hsu simply quoted the press release, not even bothering to question any assumptions. Because it came from authority, and because the reporter did not bother to think, or even put any effort into the whole thing. SFGate's David R. Baker, at least noted for his readers the obvious (many of the "green" jobs could have been lost during the recession) and that they were in total less than 1% of the total jobs in California during that period. That simply put, "Green Jobs" will NOT employ enough people, ever, to replace the jobs lost during the recession. Indeed, though Baker does not say so (constrained by his own PC-straightjacket), the careful reader can note that the jobs created depend largely on federal funding and consist mostly of White Elephant make-work jobs at research universities out of "Ghostbusters," or unprofitable manufacturing subsidized by taxpayers at enormous expense. Nothing "Green" consists of growth opportunities for high-revenue firms.

Neither Baker nor Hsu ask, moreover, just who is Noel Perry and what does he want from this "report" (which we can see is inaccurate and misleading). A few minutes of Google reveals that Perry is the founder and manager of Baccharis Capital, with interests in various Green Travel and partnerships with REI. A reasonable person might ask, "does Perry have business investments that could gain money by public policy at the Federal and State level directed to Green tax expenditures?" This question was never answered by either Baker nor Hsu.

To be reasonably informed about "green" tax spending (either tax breaks or bonds or grants or all of these in combinations) requires an understanding of how many green jobs there are (answer: 1% of total California jobs, something you would know from the article but NOT the LAT) and what the cause of growth in the "green" job base really is. For the latter, the SFGate article will provide the careful reader with needed information, but only indirectly, so imprisoned are the reporters by PC dogma. Job growth in "green" sectors is almost entirely based on subsidies, and most of it is in various think tanks and universities. Lastly, it is reasonable to enquire just who benefits from the report, particularly the man funding it. Certainly there would be tremendous skepticism from any report issued by the NRA, or Focus on the Family, or Heritage Foundation, by any reporter covering the story. But because the report is politically correct, LAT reporters simply re-run the press release under their byline.

I will note in passing that Baker was not innumerate, quickly grasping that despite the 5% increase in "green jobs" over the period it was a tiny fraction of the overall employment in California. Since neither the report nor the press release itself mention the size of California's jobs during that period, it seems Baker spent a few moments on the BLS site to quickly apprise himself of the number of jobs (about 18 million) in California Jan 2007-Jan 2008. Hsu by contrast seems innumerate, unable to understand that a greater increase in job growth is fairly meaningless with such a tiny fraction of the job market. The "strength" of California's Green economy that she quotes is federal spending to prop up the equivalent of Dr. Venkman in "Ghostbusters." And the LAT wonders why circulation continues to drop like a rock.


Ferdinand Bardamu said...

Good report, Whiskey.

The joke here is that so far as I know, the San Francisco Chronicle, the parent paper of, has seen its circulation erode much faster then most papers in the nation - so much so that Hearst toyed with making it an online-only paper a few months ago.

And Whiskey, I'd appreciate it if you'd update your blogroll with my new URL:

Whiskey said...

Done! Thanks Ferdinand. You are quite right about the Chronicle. I'd forgotten they nearly went all e-version. They probably should. Mark Morford aside, their reporting is a bit better than the Times.

Kinuachdrach said...

"... "green jobs" (which include things like carpentry and electricians) "grew" an astonishing 5% between January 2007 and January 2008 ..."

This reminds me of the Heterosexual Aids scam of a few years ago. By continually broadening the definition of 'AIDS', the scammers manipulated the appearance of a spreading epidemic.

So now carpenters & electricians are "greeen" jobs. What's next? Green cosmetologists?

Nine-of-Diamonds said...

Good post, although this "reporting" by the LA Times is pretty low-hanging fruit.

I think someone on the Belmont Club pointed out that the "green energy" initiative in Spain ended up costing approximately five jobs for every job created. Although knowing the regressive, neo-feudalist policies of the various "green" proponents, you have to wonder if this is a feature, not a bug. Does anyone really think that the likes of Van Jones would be unhappy to harm the U.S. economy? A new green bubble would be an excellent way for the Left to undermine the middle class while steering tax dollars to radical environmentalists, minority grievance-mongers like Jones, and other identity politics parasites.

Jobs said...

"But taken together, those jobs represent less than 1 percent of employment in the state, according to the report's authors. Green industries have great promise for employment, but they haven't delivered yet."

that still represents a LOT of people or jobs!! (i mean 1% is actually quite a lot)

Anonymous said...

A real "Green Job" would be anyone helping to build more windmills, solar-disks, steam generatiors, geothermal piping or equipment, wave-powered-generators, hydroelectric equipment (dams), or power-lines to and from these green-energy power sources.

Thats it kids. People working in office buildings are not "green employment" by definition.

In my opinion, the greenest jobs possible at the present time would be working on new nuclear plants in any capacity.

Note: much of the jobs above will end up being performed by men, many of them hispanic working-class men. I dont think I can envison many females working in factories making wind turbines or solar disks, but who am I kidding....that stuff will be made in China anyway.

Blogger said...

There is a chance you're eligible for a new solar rebate program.
Find out if you qualify now!