SAN FRANCISCO - Green jobs in California are growing at a faster pace than jobs overall in the environmentally friendly state, but they still account for only a tiny fraction of the economy, a study said on Tuesday.

The number of such jobs grew 2.4 percent annually between 1995 and 2008 compared with 1 percent overall job growth statewide, said the study sponsored by environmental and budget public policy group Next 10.

California, with the most aggressive climate change regulation in the nation, had 159,000 green jobs out of an economy with more than 18 million jobs at the start of 2008, the report said.

This is the foundation for the green economy going forward in California, said Next 10 founder Noel Perry.

There were fewer green jobs than he had expected, Perry said, but it is a conservative report.

Companies of all kinds have begun touting themselves as green, so counting jobs linked to industries such as clean energy can be a tricky exercise.

Researchers said they were aware of the corporate greenwashing phenomenon, and only counted companies that engaged in clearly green activities.

A chief sustainability officer at a big retailer would not be included, for instance, but an electrician installing solar panels would be even if the work did not constitute the majority of the retailer's business, said the report conducted by Collaborative Economics.

(Reporting by Peter Henderson; Editing by Xavier Briand)