The data is in, and it proves the U.S. economy is powered by solar

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States created 2.24 million non-farming jobs in 2016 – and the new National Solar Jobs Census says solar created one out of every 50 of them.

The seventh annual solar employment report, compiled and released by The Solar Foundation (TSF) this morning, revealed that the solar industry created 51,000 jobs last year, increasing total number of people employed in the U.S. solar industry to 260,077.

The National Solar Jobs Census 2016 found that solar industry employment growth outpaced the overall U.S. economy by 17 times as it increased by 51,000 jobs, bringing the total of U.S. solar workers to 260,077. The solar workforce grew by 25% over 2015, the largest annual growth percentage since TSF’s first census in 2010.

“With a near tripling of solar jobs since 2010, the solar industry is an American success story that has created hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs,” said Andrea Luecke, president and executive director of TSF. “In 2016, we saw a dramatic increase in the solar workforce across the nation, thanks to a rapid decrease in the cost of solar panels and unprecedented consumer demand for solar installations.”

Forty-four states saw solar jobs increase in 2016, meaning the industry has expanded significantly beyond its traditional strongholds of California and Arizona. Although California created the highest number of jobs as a state, Massachusetts came in second, with Texas, Nevada and Florida rounding out the Top 5.

What may be the report’s most encouraging statistic, however, is that the job growth wasn’t concentrated in one segment of the industry. Manufacturing jobs grew 26%, installation jobs increased by 14%, project development jobs improved by 53%, and sales-and-distribution jobs increased by 32%

Solar job growth in 2016 took place in all job sectors, including a 26 percent growth in manufacturing companies to 38,121 jobs nationwide. Installation jobs increased by 14 percent to a total of 137,133 jobs. Project development jobs increased by 53 percent to 34,400 jobs, while sales and distribution jobs increased by 32 percent to 32,147 jobs.

The National Solar Jobs Census is the second report in as many months that reported positive solar job growth. In January, the Department of Energy released a report saying the solar industry employed 373,807 people, increasing over 2015 by 73,000. Reasons for the discrepancies were not readily apparent.