Friday, January 14, 2011

Chart of the day: BLS data on chemist unemployment

From Wall Street Journal infographic (click to get better view)
Blue line represents national U3 unemployment rate, tan line and bars are chemists

Thanks to Anon011320110519p for the link to the above Wall Street Journal infographic (click the image to get a better view). This shows the US Bureau of Labor Statistics' analysis of unemployment by occupation. The chart on the above left shows the unemployment rate for chemists and materials scientists. Interestingly, BLS indicates a drop from 4.5% for 2009 to 3.1% for 2010. I'm surprised to read that, really. If you had told me that BLS was going to tell me that the unemployment rate for chemists and materials scientists (heretofore referred to as Ch&MSc) was 3.1% for 2010, I'd have a difficult time believing that. The only thing I can figure is that some of the alternative energy push is bringing in new MatSci folks, perhaps.

The much more believeable number is the drop in total employed Ch&MSc dropped by 15k from 2007 to 2010; that doesn't surprise me a bit. Certainly, some of that is 'workforce participation' as older chemists move out of the lab (remember, BLS has a pretty strict definition of who is a chemist). Also, the ever-increasing number of materials scientists is hidden by combining their (much smaller) ranks with chemists.

Interesting find. Thanks again to Anon.

1 comment:

  1. This is good stuff. Agree that the drop in total employed is the most meaningful piece of information. The link back to a previous discussion on BLS' 'strict definition' and your comment that chemistry professors are not counted as chemists in BLS accounting was just as interesting. This is a case where analysis of cumulative ACS stats on number of chemistry degrees granted might be informative. Assuming that receiving only a BA/BS in chemistry indicates an interest in chemistry, we shouldn;t be surprised that many BA/BS Chem graduates leave chemistry. On the other hand, assuming as I do that obtaining a PhD in chemistry is indicative of a passion for chemistry, what have we achieved in terms of retaining those PhDs within the field?