Initial results from the latest American Chemical Society survey of the employment status and salaries of its core membershipthose in the domestic workforceconfirm that times are becoming very tough for the chemical profession. The jobless rate of 3.7% that the ACS survey reveals as of March 1 this year is up from 3.3% one year ago. It also exceeds the earlier all-time high of 3.2% set in 1972, the first year of this annual survey. ACS defines the chemical workforce as those with full- or part-time jobs, on postdocs, or unemployed but seeking employment
Industrial chemists have been hit particularly hard. For those in manufacturing, unemployment is at 4.9%. For those with nonmanufacturing firms, it is 4.8%. Academic chemists, with their at least partial protection of tenure, are seeing unemployment in their ranks remain low at 1.1%, almost as low as the 1.0% among government-employed chemists.
As is usual, unemployment among chemists increases with age: this year, from 2.0% for those up to 44 years old to 4.7% for those over 45.
The salaries of ACS chemists with full-time jobs have held up quite well. The median annual increase for individual chemists of 4.2% is slightly down from 4.8% last year. But it is still well ahead of inflation, which is at about 2%. Women have done slightly better than men: 4.4% compared with 4.1%. Increases decline with age, from 6.3% for those in their 20s to 3.5% for those in their 60s.
This years survey is based on responses to 23,000 questionnaires sent to a random sample of about 89,500 full-dues-paying domestic ACS members. The total response was 9,492. Of respondents, 701 were not chemists, and 448 of those who were chemists were not in the workforce. This left a sample of 8,343 workforce chemists.
Since 1996, these salary and employment surveys have been conducted by Mary W. Jordan, specialist in workforce programs, ACS Department of Career Services.
The change for ACS members from essentially full employment two years ago, when unemployment was at 1.5%, to the high unemployment level of today parallels what has been happening throughout the economy. In May, overall U.S. unemployment was at 6.1%, the highest in nine years.
The number of persons on nonfarm payrolls has been declining since it peaked in February 2001. And with no sharp upturn in sight, there is a growing possibility that the current Administration could be the first since World War II to witness an actual decline in payrolls. An annual job creation of more than 2 million is needed just to keep up with the natural growth of the workforce.