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US electric sector provides 5% of GDP, supports 7 million jobs, study finds

The electric power industry in the United States supports more than 7 million jobs - or one in 20 American jobs - and contributes 5 percent of total gross domestic product, or GDP, says a report released Aug. 2 by M.J. Bradley & Associates.

The MJB&A report, Powering America: The Economic and Workforce Contributions of the U.S. Electric Power Industry, was written for the Edison Electric Institute, the American Public Power Association, and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. It offers a detailed analysis of the role that electric companies play in the nation's labor force and economy.

The study found that the electric power industry directly provides nearly 2.7 million jobs nationwide through its employees, contractors and supply chain, and investments. More than 4.4 million additional jobs are supported through the induced effects of these jobs, the report says.

Among the study's findings:
⦁ Employment - About 5 percent, or 1 in every 20 jobs in America, depends on the electric power industry. Each job directly provided by the industry "supports an additional 1.7 jobs in our communities."

⦁ Job quality - The average job in the electric power industry pays twice the national median wage. In 2015, the median annual wage in the industry was $73,000.

⦁ Supporting veterans - The electric power industry "has a long history of hiring military veterans," who have training and skills that match those required for technical, engineering, support and leadership positions, the report said. Military veteran hiring "accounted for more than 10 percent of new hires in the industry as of year-end 2014, the latest year for which data are available."

⦁ Infrastructure investment -The significant annual investments by the electric power industry to build smarter energy infrastructure and to continue the transition to cleaner electric generation sources are expected to exceed $100 billion annually for the next several years. This level of investment provides more than 1.4 million jobs, the report estimated.

"The electric power industry is one of the great American success stories and provides high-quality jobs that empower our nation's economic growth," said MJB&A President Michael J. Bradley, in an Aug. 2 news release describing the study. "Behind every wall outlet or light switch, there is a dedicated workforce focused on powering the lives of millions of Americans who rely on electricity for nearly everything they do."

Electricity: 'the first 5%' of the US economy

The 5 percent of GDP that flows from the electricity industry "is the first 5 percent of the American economy," said Paul Allen, senior vice president of MJB&A, during an Aug. 2 conference call with reporters. "Other industries depend on the men and women of the electricity industry because they depend on electricity," he explained.

Agreeing that the electricity industry is the "5 percent of the American economy that supports the rest," APPA President and CEO Sue Kelly noted during the conference call that public power utilities "are the backbone of our communities."

Kelly noted that although there are large public power utilities, the median public power utility serves 4,000 customers, so "we are very prevalent in small-town America."

"Whether we are small or large, we are top employers in our communities," she said. These local utilities, owned by the people they serve, offer "good government jobs with good government benefits," she said - jobs that keep dollars in their communities.

Public power utilities are "part of the fiber of our communities," Kelly added. "The economic impact is only one part of what we provide ... we represent the values of our communities."

The electric industry "provides tremendous value" to Americans, said EEI President Thomas Kuhn. Pointing out that the study found that the electricity sector is either directly or indirectly responsible for 5 percent of GDP, Kuhn said, "We like to say it's the first 5 percent of GDP" because without electricity, "you can't power the rest of the economy."

NRECA Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Connor drew attention to the "contribution we make not only to the economy, but to the quality of life."

Electrons underlie 'nearly everything we do'

"Nearly everything we do depends on an affordable and reliable supply of electricity," said the report.

Overall, the power industry "offers a diverse number of careers - system operators, engineers, computer programmers, architects, lawyers, accountants, environmental researchers, cybersecurity specialists, call center employees and customer service representatives, and many more," it said. For example, power companies employ meteorologists to forecast bad weather, and foresters work alongside tree trimmers to keep long-distance transmission lines working.

The electricity industry "is a major driver of our economy, directly providing more than 2.7 million good jobs in communities across the nation," said Lonnie R. Stephenson, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

The full report, Powering America: The Economic and Workforce Contributions of the U.S. Electric Power Industry, is available at this link: