Trump just dealt a major blow to the fastest-growing job market in the US

  • President Donald Trump signed off on a new 30% tax on imported solar panels Tuesday.
  • But most of the US jobs in the solar sector aren't in manufacturing, they're in installation. 
  • US companies say they're bracing for "meaningful job loss" because of the decision. 
  • But because the tax isn't permanent and is not as high as some had feared, solar installer stocks aren't taking a hit yet.

Nearly every solar panel that will be put on a roof in the US just got a little more expensive. 

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed off on a new, temporary, 30% tax on imported solar panels. 

Trump heralded the tariff as a job-creating measure on Tuesday, saying "we’re going to make our own product again. It’s been a long time."

But most solar companies in the US say that's just not true. 

RELATED: Items that are solar powered

Solar Powered
See Gallery
Solar Powered

Tesla PowerWall

Photo: Tesla

A portable solar panel outside of a backpack on the grass of a park along with other technological devices

(Photo: Getty)

Students install photovoltaic panels on September 24, 2015 in Ungersheim, eastern France. AFP PHOTO / SEBASTIEN BOZON (Photo credit should read SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP/Getty Images)
BELFAST, ME - AUGUST 6: An energy efficiency program in Belfast led to this 180-panel solar array atop the city's fire department roof and might yet include, pending city council consideration, a solar installation at an old landfill that, together with the fire department array, would provide 20 percent of Belfast's electricity needs. (Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
The prototype of the hybrid platfom PH4S which combines renewable energy from solar, wind, wave and tidal sources, is launched on the port of Saint Nazaire on July 17, 2015. The pilot platform includes a wind turbine, solar panels, a tidal turbine and a wave power system capturing the energy of currents and waves. AFP PHOTO / GEORGES GOBET (Photo credit should read GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images)
A solar panel road is pictured during its inauguration in Tourouvre, Normandy, northwestern France, December 22, 2016. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Workers plant wolfberries among solar penals in Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China, April 18, 2017. Picture taken April 18, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA.
Project instigator and pilot Raphael Domjan (R) congratulates test pilot Damian Hischier after a test flight of the SolarStratos aircraft, a solar-powered two-seater aircraft with a mission to fly some 24,000 meters (over 78,000 feet) above earth set to take place in 2018, in Payerne, Switzerland May 5, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
A thermosolar power plant is pictured at Noor II near the city of Ouarzazate, Morocco, November 4, 2016. Picture taken November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal
The solar-powered plane Solar Impulse 2, piloted by Swiss aviator Bertrand Piccard, is pictured before landing at San Pablo airport in Seville, southern Spain June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo

As Bloomberg reports, about eight of every 10 solar panels in the US come from abroad, which means the new tariff will deal a serious blow to the solar industry in the states. 

The Solar Energy Industries Association estimates that the new tax will cost about 23,000 jobs in 2018, since fewer people are expected to buy panels at the higher price. (For a typical rooftop-style 250-watt solar panel, the price hike comes out to about $25 extra dollars a piece.) The job losses could include solar panel installers, manufacturers who make metal racks for holding the cells, and companies supplying add-on parts like inverters and machines that track the sun to improve cell performance. 

US solar-cell producers, who this tariff is designed to help, employed 1,300 workers at their peak in 2012, according to the Associated Press. But the larger industry related to solar installation and solar energy in the US employs roughly 200 times that number of people. Currently, 260,000 people work in the US solar industry, earning between $26 and $45 dollars an hour on average, according to a recent report from the Environmental Defense Fund.

According to a US Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis from October, solar photovoltaic installer was ranked the fastest-growing occupation, with an estimated growth rate of 105% between 2016 and 2026.

Kevin Bassalleck is the president of the Albuquerque-based company Affordable Solar, which is working on a $45 million solar farm to power a data center for Facebook. Bassallec told Business Insider in an email that the new tax will "of course lead to a significant reduction in solar demand in the US market," and cause some consumers to re-think the idea of switching to solar energy. 

"The gains that may materialize in module manufacturing won’t be nearly as much as the near certain losses in the rest of the US manufacturing supply chain and installation jobs," Bassalleck said. 

In 2016, new solar capacity around the world grew by 50%, according to the International Energy Agency. For the first time, the capacity of new solar installations rose faster than any other fuel, including coal. The EDF now estimates that demand for solar will fall 9% because of the new tax.

solar tariff(Office of the US Trade Representative)

But the tax may not be completely catastrophic for the US solar industry. In November, Bloomberg reported that a tariff of 30-35% would make the price of a solar module close to what it was for developers in the fall of 2016. 

Plus, the tariff isn't permanent — it will decrease incrementally over the next four years to a final tax of 15%.

More from Business Insider:

Read Full Story