Drop in Jobs for Econ Ph.D.s

Decline in listings is almost entirely in academic positions. Non-academic positions see a slight increase.

December 11, 2013

The number of job openings for economics Ph.D.s fell by 4.3 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to new data from the American Economic Association.

The analysis is based on the number of openings listed with the association -- which likely does not include all of the possible positions, but is generally considered to rise and fall with the broader pool of available jobs for economics Ph.D.s, and especially for those starting their careers.

Like many academic disciplines, economics saw a sharp decline in openings after the recession hit in 2008. Openings dropped 21 percent the next year. Since then, positions have been climbing back to their 2008 levels. Last year's total of 2,915 jobs was one higher than the 2,914 listed in 2008. But this year's total is 2,790.

The release of annual jobs data is frequently a source of trauma for new Ph.D.s in humanities fields, where a shrinking number of tenure-track jobs have left many people struggling to get on the tenure track. But the situation is a little different in economics, where the number of new doctoral recipients is so much smaller than the number of openings each year. New data from the National Science Foundation, for example, show that a large increase in the number of economics Ph.D.s in 2012 brought the total to 1,243, continuing a pattern in which there are more than twice as many listings as there are new doctorates.

Many new economics Ph.D. earners pursue non-academic careers -- and the latest job figures suggest an increase in that path. The number of new academic jobs fell by 6.6 percent, to 1,924. The number of non-academic jobs increased by 1 percent, to 866.

As has been the case in recent years, the most popular specialization cited in job listings was mathematical and quantitative methods, followed by microeconomics, macroeconomics and financial economics.


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