Monday, July 12, 2010

ACS salary survey: chemist unemployment at 3.9%, highest in 20 years

Both Rudy Baum and the excellent Leigh Boerner at Just Another Electron Pusher have posted on the newly released 2009 ACS salary survey data. More on the trends soon, but here are my keys to this data:

- The U3-like measurement of chemist unemployment is at 3.9%, which is the highest it's been in twenty years.
- The U6-like measurement of chemist unemployment (unemployed + part-time + postdocs) is at 9.6%, which is also higher than any rate for the past ten years (the report only has numbers back until 1999.)
- Median chemist salaries fell 3.2%. That's not good, either.
- After you reach 40 years of age, the likelihood of unemployment climbs unpleasantly. For chemists aged 30-39, the "U3" rate is 2.3%. For the next age deciles, the rates are respectively 3.9, 5.0 and 4.9%. The "U6"-like rate is even uglier, with part-time employment increasing significantly (6.5%, 7.9% and 14.1%)

I'll note that my bold prediction of last year came out to be a bit pessimistic ("U3" = 5%, "U6" = 12%). I'm happy to have been wrong.

More later, after I've had a chance to digest this.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. When you are young, it seems like well several things. You are aren't specialized YET so you are free to take a number of positions to sharpen your specialty. You also have a very short degree life and if you don't use your degree in about a year, you are pretty much obsolete. When you are older, the lag time between jobs really lengthens as your niche becomes more and more specialized, thus resulting in length time between gigs. If you have a family, hell ... it's more and more difficult to relocate and adds to the lag time.

  3. You really should stop referring to the subjects of this survey as chemists. They are ACS members. Nothing else.

  4. Anon11:04A:

    While I agree that ACS members are not all chemists, I think they're the best statistical proxy that you have.

    Now if you're trying to make a distinction between working bench chemists and managerial/administrative types, that's a whole different kettle of fish. Give us (me) a few years, and we'll get this mess sorted out.

  5. Any other thoughts on the working bench chemist vs ACS member debate. The C&EN news survey always seems a bit inflated to me.

  6. A3:35P: I'm efforting that, but I'm going to guess it's going to take months or years to get a number that you and I are happy with.


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