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August 4, 2003
Volume 81, Number 31
CENEAR 81 31 pp. 37-44
ISSN 0009-2347


SALARY SURVEY
Chemists are swept along by the longest decline in jobs since World War II, bringing a record high level of unemployment for ACS members

MICHAEL HEYLIN, C&EN WASHINGTON

The deterioration of the economy and, especially, of the overall employment situation since early 2001 has had a major impact on the chemical profession. With wrenching suddenness, the employment status of chemists--as measured by the experience of American Chemical Society members--has crumbled from the strongest since 1990 to, at least statistically, the weakest since ACS started measuring unemployment on a regular and reasonably consistent basis more than 30 years ago.

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PHOTODISC

ACS's latest annual survey of the employment status and salaries of its members in the domestic workforce indicates that, as of March 1, 3.5% were unemployed but looking for employment. This is a little lower than the 3.7% reported earlier from initial survey results (C&EN, June 23, page 12). But it is still above the previous jobless highs of 3.3% last year and 3.2% in 1972. In 2001, the rate had been 1.5%, indicating essentially full employment.

This year's survey confirms the continued erosion of the big employment advantage that chemists once held over the working population in general. For instance, in 1993, when 2.0% of chemists responding to the ACS survey that year were jobless, the national unemployment rate was at 7.1%. This March, the jobless rate was down to 5.8% for the overall workforce, just 2.3% above that of chemists.

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