How do transportation jobs change as the vehicle fleet is largely electrified?
Transportation is the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions in the Northwest today, and the NZNW Energy Pathways-Transportation analysis found that electrification of vehicle fleets results in significant cost savings relative to other net-zero emission options.
This means that the Transportation sector, and its associated jobs, would undergo a huge transformation on the road to net-zero as zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs, which include electric vehicles—EVs—as well as hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles—FCVs) and supporting infrastructure replace gas-powered internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles and conventional fueling stations. Among other challenges, the transition has brought up concerns from autoworkers about the impact of the EV transition on high-quality union jobs in the automotive sector.
Table 1. Transportation Subsector Descriptions and Example Jobs*
*For a list of resources consulted, see NZNW Workforce Analysis Resources
Job Growth in Three Subsectors and Loss in Two Leads to Slight Net Increase in Employment Between 2021 and 2030
The Transportation sector includes light-duty vehicles (LDVs), medium-duty vehicles (MDVs), and heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs, short-haul and long-haul), both ICE vehicles and ZEVs. The NZNW Energy Pathways modeling assumes the following sales shares: LDVs and MDVs–100% ZEV sales by 2035; HDV short-haul–100% EV sales by 2045; HDV long-haul–60% EV, 40% hydrogen FCV sales by 2045.
In 2021, the Northwest Transportation sector supported roughly 219,600 jobs, more than any other energy sector, across direct (associated with the initial economic impact of a given investment or activity), indirect (associated with the supply chain connected to that initial economic activity), and induced (based on the additional household spending resulting from direct and indirect jobs) employment. Together, jobs from the Conventional Fueling Stations, Vehicle Maintenance, Wholesale Trade Parts, and Vehicle Manufacturing subsectors comprised 43% of jobs across all four sectors analyzed for this study.
Among the five subsectors in 2021, Conventional Fueling Stations supported the most jobs (almost 72,000, or 33% of Transportation sector jobs). Vehicle Maintenance supported another 27% (approximately 60,000) of the sector’s jobs, followed by Wholesale Trade Parts with 23% (just under 50,000), and Vehicle Manufacturing with another 17% (approximately 37,500 jobs). The fifth Transportation subsector, Charging Stations, accounted for only 77 jobs in the Northwest in 2021 due to the relative nascency of the EV charging industry.
Between 2021 and 2030 in this analysis, employment supported by the Northwest Transportation sector increases by almost 2,000 net jobs, or 1%, reflecting a combination of job growth and loss across the subsectors (see Figure 1 below). By 2025, 10,000 Transportation jobs are added in the Northwest, representing a peak when there is the most overlap between existing ICE vehicles and new ZEVs (which require production of new vehicle parts and new charging stations). Five years later, however, 8,000 Transportation jobs are lost, largely reflecting the decrease in conventional fuel stations.
Between 2021 and 2030, three subsectors see a net rise in employment–Vehicle Maintenance by 10%, Wholesale Trade Parts by 11%, and Charging Stations by over 2,000% due to its low baseline employment level in 2021.
Vehicle Maintenance net employment growth by 2030 is primarily due to increased vehicle maintenance costs for trucks. Vehicle Maintenance employment peaks in 2025 due to the concentration of jobs when there is the most overlap between ICE vehicles and ZEVs.
While ZEV maintenance generally costs less than maintenance for gasoline and diesel vehicles and therefore results in fewer jobs needed, this drop occurs largely after 2030 once the share of ZEV stock overtakes ICE vehicle stock. (Figure 1 therefore shows growth in this subsector by 2025, followed by declines in the subsequent years.)
Jobs in the Wholesale Trade Parts subsector climb by 2030 as the stock of all vehicles (ZEVs, as well as ICE buses, heavy-duty trucks, and medium-duty trucks) increase during this time. Lastly, employment in Charging Stations rises by 2030 to meet growing demand for EVs.
The remaining two Transportation subsectors see a net decrease in employment by 2030–Conventional Fueling Stations by 15% and Vehicle Manufacturing by 1%.
Employment in Conventional Fueling Stations declines due to the drop in demand for gas-powered ICE vehicles as EVs and other ZEV stocks outpace ICE vehicle stocks. This decline in employment is based on model assumptions about the number of charging devices, expected charging station maintenance needs, and impacts to fueling stations both with and without convenience stores. In reality, there are many questions about what this transition will look like for conventional fueling stations and associated workers.
Vehicle Manufacturing employment also shrinks slightly by 2030 due to a small decrease in total truck sales, reflecting underlying assumptions about purchasing patterns during this period (in reality, however, there is significant uncertainty about future vehicle sales and the impact of the Inflation Reduction Act). In the longer term (2030-2050), ZEV sales increase and lead to overall slight growth in Vehicle Manufacturing employment.
Simultaneous Employment Growth and Decline in Transportation Industries Reflects Complexity of Transition
The increasing stock of ZEVs and charging stations in the Northwest drives employment growth in the construction industry, which more than doubles and is the industry with the biggest growth in the Transportation sector between 2021 and 2030. However, given that the Charging Stations subsector remains relatively small compared to the other Transportation subsectors, this growth represents only about 1,000 additional jobs.
For comparison, the Wholesale and Retail Trade industry accounts for 60,000 jobs in 2021, which decline by roughly 4,000 from 2021 to 2030 as the number of conventional fueling stations drops. As discussed above, the replacement of conventional fueling stations with charging stations for EVs will have significant employment effects that will require early and intentional planning. Wholesale and Retail Trade jobs also continue to drop through 2050.
The Automotive Repair and Maintenance industry, on the other hand, adds nearly 4,000 jobs by 2030 (contributing to a net growth in Transportation jobs between 2021 and 2030). However, in the long term (2030-2050), these Automotive Repair and Maintenance jobs decrease as EVs capture more of the market share, since EVs require less maintenance than ICE vehicles. This leads to an overall net decrease in Transportation jobs between 2021 and 2050.
All Transportation Occupations Except for Administrative Positions Experience Net Growth by 2030
Figure 3 below shows an occupational analysis, which includes direct and indirect jobs, but not induced jobs. The number of Management/Professional occupations in the Northwest Transportation sector grows by almost 1,900 jobs (4.5%) between 2021 and 2030, which is more than other Transportation occupations. During the same time period, Administrative positions decline by 8% (over 2,100 jobs), driven by losses in the conventional fueling stations subsector.
Most Transportation Sector Jobs in the Northwest Pay Below $30 an Hour in both 2021 and 2030
Most Transportation sector jobs (62% in 2021 and 61% in 2030) pay below $30 an hour, making Transportation the energy sector with the biggest share of jobs in this low wage tier. In 2021, 19% of workers earn between $30 and $44 an hour, and the remaining 19% of workers in 2021 earn over $44 an hour. The percentage earning over $44 an hour increases to 20% in 2030, likely driven by a rise in the number of managerial and professional jobs, which generally have higher wages.
BW Research based these wage tiers on the MIT Living Wage Calculator at median living wages for different living circumstances in each of the four Northwest states, weighted by employment in each state. The modeling team relied on this national source to maintain consistency across the four Northwest states, rather than introduce state-specific sources.
The Transportation sector employment changes present important considerations for the region to meet its decarbonization goals and foster a zero-emissions vehicle transition. Since many of the occupations in the Transportation sector are paid low wages (under $33 an hour), ensuring that workers receive good benefits to support themselves and their families will be important for the sector’s progress.
There are also concerns from autoworkers about the impact of the electric vehicle transition on high-quality union jobs in the automotive sector. An additional necessary consideration for this sector’s decarbonization transition is the uncertainty surrounding conventional fueling stations workers as demand for conventional fuel drops and new charging station technologies expand. It is therefore incumbent upon regional stakeholders, including economic development agencies, unions, community colleges, and workforce development experts, to seek ways to address these challenges.