Monday, November 7, 2011

C&EN/ACS: Chemist unemployment down slightly to 3.8%

This week's Chemical and Engineering News is the employment issue; first, let's talk numbers from Sophie Rovner's article (emphases mine):
Chemists have suffered right along with other U.S. workers. Surveys of American Chemical Society members show that unemployment among chemists and chemical engineers reached 3.9% in 2009—considerably higher than the 2.3–2.4% rate seen in 2007–08. “Even though it’s still a much better story than for the U.S. as a whole,” that degree of joblessness is “still quite significant to chemists,” says Elizabeth C. McGaha, manager for the society’s Department of Research & Member Insights, which carries out the surveys. 
The situation has been even worse for new graduates than for chemists and chemical engineers as a group, McGaha says. The unemployment rate for new grads, which was 7.2% in 2007, jumped to 9.5% in 2008 and 11.4% in 2009, according to the ACS Survey of New Graduates. The pressure appears to have eased slightly in 2010. Unemployment for new graduates was 10.7%, while that for ACS chemists and chemical engineers as a group was 3.8%. Nevertheless, McGaha says that “we’ll need to see the 2011 data before suggesting any stabilization.” 
Her caution stems in part from uncertainty about the reasons for the decline in unemployment. For instance, did the decline result from laid-off chemists finding new jobs as opposed to quitting the job market in favor of additional schooling or retirement? McGaha’s team hopes to tackle these questions in coming years. 
The sector that’s taken the hardest hit since the recession began is the pharmaceutical industry, which has cut thousands of positions in the U.S. as a result of the expiration of patent protection on several blockbuster drugs, outsourcing, and other pressures. 
However, job cuts in pharma may be declining. Those announced during the first three quarters of 2011 totaled 19,076, according to the outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. For the same period in 2010, 43,334 job cuts were announced, and in the first three quarters of 2009, pharma job cut announcements totaled 58,583. 
In the chemical industry, announced jobs cuts stood at 2,447 during the first three quarters of 2011. During the same period in 2010, they reached 1,716, and in the first three quarters of 2009, job cut announcements totaled 54,219.


  1. If you have no opinion on these false ACS statistics I suggest you fold up this blog.

    Virtually no one in my dept is getting job offers over the last year.

    You're way to cozy with that sc*mmy organization.

  2. Would you like to detail my coziness?

  3. What's with all the trolling lately?

  4. Bitter/jaded anon955: I presume that you meant to write "You're way TOO cozy..."

    Before you start hurling baseless invectives against CJ, realize that poor grammar ain't gonna land you nor nobody else in your podunk department no job!

    @bad wolf: That wasn't too much trolling, was it? ;)

  5. The main problem I see with the ACS numbers is that it is a poll of their members, according to the article. When I had no income, my professional association memberships lapsed that were due during that time, which is a common thing to do by my own poll of people I know. So, their unemployed chemists numbers would be artificially low.

  6. Anon955: I think most people have concluded the ACS provides the most optimistic employment statistics. It is no secret. But with no other wide study available, it would be hard for even CJ to criticize the ACS' numbers. We are left with our own personal experience. My experience has been that chemists are finding employment, just not in chemistry. Think MBA, JD, switching to medicine, becoming stay at home parents, taking a job back at the family biz and finding govt work in another area. Most likely, the ACS is somewhat correct, chemists have low unemployment, but the price is throwing away years of narrow specialization.

    This low return on investment is what the ACS should focus on, smart people will always find work. But lets stop wasting their time training them in things that no one is asking for these days.

  7. I think I've dealt with this enough that I will spend my evening writing an FAQ about it.

    But here is the last time we spent time in the comments rehashing the relative bogosity of ACS employment data:

    Short answer: yes, we all look askance at ACS numbers, but BLS numbers aren't that different. YMMV.

  8. I suppose the unemployment ACS numbers are down because increasing number of unemployed chemists do not bother answering those ACS employment surveys anymore.

    Down, down with the pharma industry hyenas and the ACS lackeys!

  9. @milkshake: Wow...this militant leftist side of yours is unexpected yet refreshing! Should we denounce the bourgeois pharma execs as anti-proletariat and parade them in dunce caps? Power to the bench scientists!

  10. In my humble opinion, I really don't know all that many unemployed chemists. Just a whole lot of underemployed synthetic chemists...