The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) recently responded to the full results from The Solar Foundation’s (TSF) third annual "National Solar Jobs Census," which details subsector job figures for the U.S. solar energy industry. The report shows the continued growth in U.S. solar jobs is led by system installers, sales and distribution, and other support services.

Top line results released November 2 found that the industry has grown to support 119,016 U.S. jobs across all 50 states. TSF’s 2012 census shows 13.2% growth over 2011. Companies that install solar now employ 57,177 Americans, a 17.5% increase over 2011 figures. Sales and distribution jobs experienced a 23.1% increase, now employing 16,005 Americans.

 “These results are clear — the U.S. solar industry is strong and growing, and we are putting Americans back to work,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. “As the cost of solar continues to come down, more companies and homeowners are turning to solar for their electricity and hot water. This increase in demand for solar energy is creating economic opportunities throughout the U.S. Going forward, we expect a record year for new solar projects and corresponding job growth in 2013. This should serve as a signal to policymakers that clean energy policies are doing what they were intended to do — grow our economy.”

“The ‘National Solar Jobs Census 2012’ illustrates that the solar industry, as a whole, is a dependable job creator and that solar employers are confident about growth in 2013,” said Andrea Luecke, executive director of TSF. “The growth by installers, especially at larger firms, signals that this subsector is heading toward a period of consolidation and maturation on par with other successful industries at this stage of the growth curve.

Still, not every subsector exhibited strong job growth. Manufacturing jobs decreased from 37,941 jobs in 2011 to 29,742 jobs today.

“While manufacturer jobs losses are unfortunate, this is a sign of a maturing and highly-competitive global industry. We’ve seen this consolidation trend in other industries, and we’ll see it again. Still, more than 1,000 solar manufacturers operate in the U.S., and with strong demand expected in 2013, they are positioned to make a rebound. This makes it all the more important to continue smart federal and state solar policies that drive private sector investment,” Resch explained.

Solar employers in all subsectors expressed optimism in their census responses about future job growth. They expect to grow by 17.2% over the next 12 months, representing an addition of 20,000 new jobs for Americans.

The Solar Foundation and BW Research used an improved version of the Solar Energy Industries Association’s National Solar Database to reach more employers. As a result, the solar employment figure for 2011 was revised upwards from 100,237 to 105,145. As in previous years, the survey examined employment throughout the solar value chain, including installation, sales and distribution, manufacturing, and other relevant subsectors and includes job numbers and growth rates. The census counts only direct jobs. The figures in the report were derived from data collected from more than 1,000 solar company survey respondents, yielding a low overall margin of error of +/-1.5%. The “National Solar Jobs Census 2012” was conducted by The Solar Foundation and BW Research with technical assistance from Cornell University.