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Preliminary numbers from the American Political Science Association suggests colleges and universities may this year hire fewer political scientists than they did last year, a result that challenges the expectation that academe is slowly recovering from the Great Recession.

Job openings in political science through January 2013 were at their lowest in almost two years. Public institutions in particular have hired fewer assistant professors and adjuncts, and have cut back on the number of openings in international relations. Although data not captured in the report suggest that hiring has picked up in the first months of 2013, the final count of job openings may not surpass that of last year.

“We do not know yet if this indicates a general decline or an adjustment for a spate of hires after the [economic] downturn,” the report reads.

Colleges and institutions have so far this academic year reported 452 openings for assistant professors to APSA’s e-Jobs program. The organization specifically tracks the postings “because these jobs are those for which graduate students and junior faculty compete,” so they serve as a makeshift indicator of the health of the job market.

At its peak during the 2006-2007 academic year, institutions reported 730 openings for assistant professors to e-Jobs, a number that plummeted to 445 three years later in the wake of the economic crash of 2008. The last two academic years have shown modest improvements -- the number growing to 537, then 586 last year.

Job Openings in Political Science by Title (APSA e-Jobs)
Year Assistant Professor Lecturer/Instructor Visiting Professor
2007 - 2008 715 68 128
2008 - 2009 619 62 78
2009 - 2010 445 70 89
2010 - 2011 537 74 97
2011 - 2012 586 79 107
2012 - Jan. 2013* 452 49 34

Jennifer Segal Diascro, director of institutional programs at APSA, said data gathered after January should be more encouraging for graduate students and junior faculty on the job market.

“The numbers have recovered a bit between January and April,” Diascro said. “It’s possible that by May we may see the number of these openings nearing the 2010-11 numbers.”

The decline in the number of assistant professor job listings may be related to a similar downturn for scholars in international relations. APSA has this academic year registered only 92 such listings, down 55 from the year before. That number had nearly rebounded to its pre-recession peak in 2011-2012. According to the report, the drop is greater than those seen in the fields of comparative politics and American government and politics.

Job Openings in Political Science by Concentration (APSA e-Jobs)
Year International Relations American Government & Politics Comparative Politics
2007 - 2008 165 176 120
2008 - 2009 124 150 103
2009 - 2010 96 105 85
2010 - 2011 123 120 94
2011 - 2012 147 122 100
2012 - Jan. 2013* 92 105 69

Institutions this year have also been less likely to hire contingent faculty. The number of job openings for lecturers and instructors, 42, has nearly been halved in a year. Similarly, the APSA has registered only 34 openings for visiting professors -- slightly more than one-third of last year’s total of 107. Altogether, the 931 job openings identified through the e-Jobs program is the lowest since 2002-3 -- another post-recession year.

Diascro said the number of job openings for contingent faculty has doubled in the last three months, which has caused the “rather precipitous drop” to disappear.

“There are still fewer of these positions open than there were in the last couple of years, but the decline is not nearly as dramatic as it was a couple months ago,” Diascro said. “And we may see a few more of these positions advertised by the end of May.”

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