I think the most interesting graph of the article is below:
It basically shows that, since 2003, salaries for all chemists (academic, industrial, governmental, at all degree levels) have failed to keep pace with inflation (as measured in 2003 constant dollars). While you could argue that this is due to the broader economy, it's not a pretty story, especially combined with the relatively high rates of unemployment.
Unemployment: We've covered the basic unemployment numbers from the ACS Salary Survey already.
Here's a problematic comparison between the US population of college graduates and ACS members that I see in the web version of the article:
I'm not convinced it's an apples-to-apples comparison when you're comparing a professional society of over 60% Ph.D.s to a college-educated labor-force with less than 10% Ph.D.s (it's probably more like 5%, actually.)
U6-like lowest since 2008: I've long titled the sum of the percentage of unemployed chemists, part-time chemists and postdocs in the ACS Salary Survey as the "U6-like number." In other words, it's a broader measure of unemployment in chemistry ("U6" refers to BLS' broadest measurement of unemployment in the U.S.) That number for the 2013 Salary Survey was 8.9%, which is lower than it has been since 2008, when it was 7.5%. That's nice to see, even it is quite high.
Weird geography: I don't think Andre the Chemist or I could have predicted this one:
Unemployment rates among ACS members also varied across the U.S. The percentage of out-of-work members who were looking for a job as of March 2013 was lowest in the East North Central region,which consists of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin, and highest in the Pacific region. New England, which at 6.9% had the highest unemployment rate last year, saw that number drop to 4.2% this year. The unemployment rate in the Pacific region eased from 6.5% to 4.9% during that same period.
The Upper Midwest with the lowest chemist unemployment? The Pacific region with the highest? Huh?
The Eka-silicon caveat: Ol' E-s isn't going to like this one:
The survey was sent to a random sample of 25,000 ACS members under the age of 70. The sample excluded student, emeritus, and retired members, as well as members living outside the U.S. The survey recipients returned 7,078 complete responses, for a response rate of 28%.
I'm pretty sure a 28% response rate is the lowest we've ever seen.
The human side of chemist unemployment: David Harwell makes some sad points about long-term unemployment amongst chemists:
Still, Harwell cautions that the unemployment numbers might be artificially lowered by a small number of out-of-work chemists who have given up on searching for a job and thus are no longer counted in unemployment statistics. “We know that some people are dropping out,” he says. “We’re seeing people leaving chemistry.”
The situation is toughest for what he terms the “very long-term unemployed,” who find it difficult to reenter the workforce for myriad reasons. “Their connections go cold; it’s hard for them to keep up their skills,” Harwell says. “They can go back to school, but that costs money, and if they have kids or a mortgage that is also eating through their savings, they just have to do something to survive.”
And that doesn’t mean they are “making a targeted move from one sector of professional employment to another,” says Harwell. Instead, some of these chemists are now working at retail chains or in restaurants to make ends meet.
We've still got a ways to go. Best wishes to all of us.