Monday, September 9, 2013

Early 2013 ACS Salary Survey: unemployment falling, salaries up for some

Data from this year's C&EN article and my post from 2011
I didn't get to do a recap of last week's release of the early results from the 2013 ACS Salary Survey, written up by Sophie L. Rovner:

Unemployment is down: The unemployment rate for members is down 0.7% between 2012 and 2013. Seems to me that the decrease in unemployment has been relatively broad-based, but it's nice to see the numbers for the B.S. members dropping significantly. Elizabeth McGaha, assistant director of ACS’s Research & Brand Strategy (RBS) department (the department that does this survey), notes that full-time employment is at 91.1%, which is the highest level since 2008. Good news, I'd think.

But: I was a little bit plesantly surprised to read the comment offered by David Harwell about this drop:
David Harwell, assistant director for career management at ACS, which publishes C&EN, cautions that the latest number might be affected by unemployed chemists who have given up on new job searches and thus are no longer counted in unemployment statistics.
And salaries:  The Bureau of Labor Statistics' CPI inflation index put inflation for 2012 at 1.7%. How did ACS member chemists do?
Salaries for U.S. chemists have edged up 2.2% in 2013 compared with 2012... the overall improvement in the median salary for chemists can be attributed entirely to a rise in pay for Ph.D.s, who saw a 1.4% boost over last year, the data show. Chemists who hold a bachelor’s degree actually suffered a 2.6% drop in median salary from 2012 to 2013.
Not so well, looks like.

(The Eka-silicon caveat: We'll also have to see what the response rate for the 2013 Salary Survey was -- I know I filled mine out.)

I think we're through the very worst of the Great Recession for chemistry, but I'd like to see ACS member unemployment drop well below the median unemployment for their equivalent degree levels before I'll say that we're recovered. That, and salary increases well above inflation. That'd be nice. (It's too soon to hope for signing bonuses, right? There's your Monday morning chuckle.)

Best wishes to all of us. 


  1. You are surprised that he would admit it, right?

    1. There are many notes to sound with data like this, and caution is only one of them. I like the fact that it was the note he chose to sound.

  2. Hey CJ, do you have denominators for each year?

    1. No, I don't, but I'll bet (I know, actually) that ACS does.

  3. Looks like the total responses for 2010 was 40,480:

    The proper way to report the unemployment percentage for 2010 is then 3.8 [95% CI 3.6 to 4.0]. (confidence interval calculated as binomial exact).

    With that alone we can say there is no evidence at the 95% level to suggest unemployment is significantly different in 2013 from what it was in 2010 as measured by the ACS 'survey',

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looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20