Flat Job Market in Economics

Total openings in 2011 were nearly the same as 2010, but a larger share of the positions were in academe.

December 19, 2011

The total number of jobs for economics Ph.D.s was roughly the same in 2011 as in 2010, but positions in academe made up a greater share than the year before.

The analysis comes from the American Economic Association, which early next year holds its annual meeting -- a key time for interviews for job hopefuls. The association lists positions that are open. While not all openings are reported to the association, its data are generally considered reflective of the field as a whole.

In 2011, the association listed 2,836 positions, down only 6 jobs from 2010. The 2011 figures represent a 21 percent increase from the 2009 total, when the impact of the U.S. financial downturn was most evident on hiring in economics. A report by the association suggested that the total this year probably represents an increase in openings even over the 2,881 jobs reported in 2008 because many of those searches were called off after the economy nosedived in the fall of that year.

Many academic disciplines -- facing a scarcity of good jobs for new Ph.D.s -- have been considering steps to promote non-academic careers and better training in doctoral programs for such paths. Economics has historically been considered a field where new Ph.D.s have many options to pursue non-academic jobs. But that may be changing as some banks and consulting groups may not be creating as many positions as in the past. At the same time, many colleges are reporting strong student interest in economics (both in economics departments and in business programs).

In 2011, as the overall job total for economics was essentially flat, the number of academic positions increased by 3 percent over 2010. Non-academic jobs fell by 7 percent. Non-academic jobs are down by 13 percent since 2008. Of the jobs listed with the association, 69 percent are now academic positions.

The top field in which positions were listed, by a wide margin, was mathematical and quantitative methods. It was followed by microeconomics, financial economics, macroeconomics and international economics.


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