College graduates generally rode out the recession better than people with less education. But job prospects were especially bleak for some of the most educated people out there: new Ph.Ds. Job openings for new Ph.D's in history, English, philosophy, and foreign languages dropped in 2008 and they've never really recovered.
Individual disciplines reported dismal numbers of new job postings for years. But those reports aren't always accurate — they can sometimes double-count jobs, or miss jobs posted outside of the main academic journals. A new report from Jeffrey Groen at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, though, cross-correlates job listing data with unemployment rates and other information, and says they're accurate enough to worry about. A chart from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences shows a significant downward trend:
In 2001, there were more than 1,800 jobs for new English Ph.Ds; in 2013, that had fallen to just over 1,000. The drops for other disciplines are slightly less steep, but equally pronounced. (The exception is classical studies, which has been fairly stable.)
That chart should scare you if you're thinking about pursuing a doctorate in English, a foreign language, or history. But it doesn't seem to be working that way. Despite the lack of labor market demand, humanities Ph.D. programs aren't suffering. New enrollments grew about 1 percent per year in the 2000s, and in 2012, they jumped almost 8 percent, according to the Council of Graduate Schools.
The job market won't feel the effects for awhile: the typical humanities Ph.D takes at least eight years to complete, according to Groen's research. But this means more and more Ph.Ds will hit the job market, and there's no sign that there will be jobs there waiting for them.
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