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Brown Jobs Powering Recovery

For all the hullabaloo over fancy “green jobs” programs, the traditional “brown energy” sector has created the most actual jobs during the recession. This should hardly be surprising to anyone who’s been following Via Meadia, but sometimes it helps to have a visual representation of the situation to illustrate just how clear the data really is. A new map at Slate helps to visualize the situation.

In the map above, states that have lost jobs are colored red, states that have gained jobs are colored blue, and states that have gained a significant number of jobs are colored brown. Although the map was originally intended to point out Obama’s weakness in swing states, it is more interesting for what it reveals about brown job growth. North Dakota, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Indiana, and Kentucky all figured among the select group of states with relatively fast job growth.

This is an extremely diverse group of states, with divergent demographic, political, and economic profiles, but what they all have in common is an unusually large concentration of brown energy projects. Texas and North Dakota have traditionally been brown energy job states; the development of new extraction techniques, most notably fracking, has allowed states like Kentucky, Colorado and Indiana to join them. Their efforts to forge ahead with boring, old-fashioned “dirty” energy are making a killing and creating high wage blue collar jobs.

It looks increasingly as if a significant chunk of America’s prosperity for the next generation will be linked to brown jobs: gas, oil and coal, getting them out of the ground, refined into usable forms, and used as fuel and feedstock for industry. This is an unexpected but welcome gift of nature’s bounty; we need to manage the environmental costs of this extraction and use of these resources, but use them we must.

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  • Luke Lea

    Alternative though not mutually exclusive explanation:

  • Luke Lea
  • thibaud

    Not sure if it’s Mr Mead’s tendentiousness and weak judgment, or just his incompetence with data analysis, but this post is adding even more noise to a map that was noisy to begin with.

    The map shows % change over one year, and for only one year, so the rankings/color code are all but meaningless. A state that took a huge hit in employment in the prior year, ie Apr 2010-Apr 2011, could very easily be at the top of the growth ranking for the next year because its base is low.

    In any case, this data set does not in any way support Mead’s wishful conclusion that “a significant chunk of America’s prosperity for the next generation will be linked to brown jobs.”

    A teenager looking at North Dakota’s growth could grasp what Mead apparently does not: huge growth on a minuscule absolute base does not translate into large or significant growth in absolute terms.

    As with Mead’s infatuation with crowdsourced funding for timewasters and iPhone covers, his weird determination to thumb his nose at smart people leads him to write some really dumb things.

    If you want to look at infographics, here’s a much better one, from Pew, that compares states’ y-o-y employment growth since 2007:

    In this map, one state leaps out from all the rest as having positive (color-coded blue) growth for all but one year since 2007. Care to guess which one that is?

    Hint: it’s the one that has no brown jobs at all, the district that serves as the metro hub for two-thirds of the nation’s wealthiest counties.


  • Kris

    “Their efforts to forge ahead with boring, old-fashioned ‘dirty’ energy are making a killing”

    A “killing”? Stop taunting the Greens! 🙂

    thibaud@3: “one state leaps out from all the rest as having positive (color-coded blue) growth for all but one year since 2007. Care to guess which one that is?”

    All other states obviously need to learn from this.

  • Tom


    And since 2007, the government has been burgeoning. Forgive me if I am unimpressed with your insinuations.

  • thibaud

    “the government has been burgeoning”

    Bingo. Which means that, in reality, the real engine of jobs growth since 2007 has been, and in future years will likely be, the US federal government.

    Not “brown jobs,” however devoutly Mead wishes this consummation to be.

    Again, to be clear, what Mead PREFERS and what WILL BE are two very different things.

    If Via Meadia is a , so to speak, reality-based blog, ie one that looks at the world objectively and presumes to give guidance on what will be, then Mead will revisit his facile and rather silly conclusions.

    If OTOH Via Meadia is simply a church bulletin, a way of rallying the faithful with appeals to predetermined outcomes shaped by faith, then by all means, rock on. Brown Jobs Forever!

  • thibaud

    Fwiw, I am a big supporter of unconventional drilling and have put my own money where my mouth is on this issue.

    I’m opposing the generally shoddy and lame quality of analysis on VM here. Mr Mead can do better.

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