U.S. solar jobs fell for a second straight year as companies, expecting President Donald Trump to slap tariffs on their imports, delayed projects. The good news for the industry: They’re set to bounce back in 2019.
The sector lost about 8,000 jobs in 2018, a 3.2 percent drop, as uncertainty over the tariffs announced early that year slowed large-scale projects, according to a report Tuesday from The Solar Foundation. The industry, which more than doubled its workforce since 2010, now employs about 242,000 people.
“We saw it coming,” Ed Gilliland, senior director at The Solar Foundation, said in an interview. “The uncertainty was a constraint.”
The Solar Foundation projects employment growth will resume in 2019, with the number of jobs increasing by 7 percent. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, meanwhile, forecasts that solar-panel installer will be the fastest-growing occupation through 2026.
The number of U.S. solar jobs had grown for at least six consecutive years before contracting in 2017 as the prospect of tariffs loomed.
In the end, the duties on imported solar equipment announced in January 2018 were lower than developers feared. But delays that began in the run-up to the White House’s final decision cascaded for months, slowing jobs growth for the first three quarters of 2018, according to The Solar Foundation, which has been tracking solar employment since 2010.
Policy changes or uncertainty in some leading solar states also curbed employment. California, the largest solar state, shed almost 9,600 solar jobs in 2018 as utilities were under less pressure to meet clean-energy goals after several years of aggressive development, according to the report.