U.S. solar jobs fell 7% in 2020 on pandemic, efficiency gains

FILE PHOTO: Arrays of photovoltaic solar panels are seen at the Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center South as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in this aerial photo taken over El Centro, California © Reuters/Bing Guan FILE PHOTO: Arrays of photovoltaic solar panels are seen at the Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center South as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in this aerial photo taken over El Centro, California

(Reuters) - Jobs in the U.S. solar industry fell nearly 7% last year due to work restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic and large gains in labor efficiency, according to an industry report published on Thursday.

The decline extends a volatile period for solar sector jobs, which have yet to return to a peak reached in 2016 before the U.S. imposed tariffs on foreign-made panels that increased prices.

Still, the solar sector is among the fastest-growing segements of the U.S. energy industry, driven by demand from governments and businesses seeking to source cheap, emissions-free power to satisfy customer, taxpayer and investor demands to address climate change.

There were 231,474 workers in the solar industry in 2020, according to the annual report from the Solar Energy Industries Association trade group, down from 248,034 in 2019.

Stay-at-home orders and a weakened economy slowed demand for solar, particularly in the labor-intensive residential sector, it said.


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U.S. solar jobs fell 7% in 2020 on pandemic, efficiency gains