Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How bad will things be in the Fall?

In comments, anon 11:18 asks, "Anyone have any clues about how bad it will be next year?"

Obviously, it depends very much on whether the economy improves. What seems less clear is the deadline for improvement. Would an improvement by July, August, or possibly September show up in the Fall JFP? Or, barring that, will the stimulus bill help? I get the feeling that schools can be pretty sensitive to late-stage improvements. My dean appears to have several versions of the budget on his desk at any time: the good, ideal budget, and then a variety of contingency budgets for when there isn't enough money. That way, he (and my chair, and I) can operate on the assumption that the money will be there, and then cut stuff at the absolute last second--it's easier to cut stuff than it is to get it back after you cut it. I get the feeling that my job was saved by the stimulus bill.

Leiter pretty much called it in July last year. I thought he was crazy, but he hit the bullseye. His calculations appear to have been based on the prospects for retirement given a weak stock market last June. Things are not better now than they were last June. And to the extent that retirements affect the job market and the stock market affects retirements, the improvements would probably have to already have taken effect in order to see a bump in the job market by Fall. The late-stage actions I mentioned before wouldn't apply to potentially vacant tenure-lines; they would apply only to already-vacant tenure-lines. The more I think about it, the more I think that in order for the economic improvements to make a difference by Fall, they'd have to have already happened or be happening now. So we're screwed.

--Mr. Zero

I second all that and just to add: two years from now everyone who put off going onto the market next year will be coming out. But, don't worry about that flood because they won't have the teaching experience or pubs that the people fighting with the market now should have by then.  

-- Second Suitor


Anonymous said...

Conventional wisdom seems to have been that this fall will be worse than last year and then that the next year (2010) should bounce back a bit. The idea was that searches that were already started would often be allowed to go forward, but new ones (in fall 2009) would not. But, in a recent conversation, a dean of a major university said that in fact 2010 could be even worse because of the way endowment spending works. I didn't fully understand it- something to do with smoothing functions relating to endowment levels, so that the big dip in the market in 2008-09, and in giving in those years, and in structured giving from that point, would lead schools to keep cutting back hiring well into 2010, at least, even independently of the lack of retirements. So, the bad days may well last for a long time. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

Given how bad the market is likely to be for the next few years, is it insane to take a two-year visiting position in a desirable place with great colleagues over a TT job in a not-so-desirable place with only one other philosopher? Even though I'd leave the TT job as soon as just about ANY other TT came along, my guess is that it would be unwise to take a temporary gig. Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

To 8:45:

Most will say take the TT. But it's your life. The thing is, if you gamble, you've got to be willing NOT to kick yourself for the rest of your life if things fall apart in two years.

I took a VAP last year, and then after I signed the contract, signed a lease, etc., got an on-campus invite for a TT job (very late in season), but decided I had to decline the invite...I spent most of the job market this year trying VERY hard not to think about that. (And it's not clear I would have done things the same if I had it to do over again.) As my luck would have it, that school never filled the position, they re-advertised this year, and I got the TT job there.

However, despite things working out for me, I'm still sometimes ambivalent about turning down that interview. So, if (unlike my situation) you have these two offers on the table at the same time, it seems fairly insane not to take the TT (at least assuming "not-so-desirable" doesn't mean "utterly unbearable war-zone" or something like that).

(Then again, there's the saying, "I don't suffer from insanity; I enjoy every minute of it." So, if you think the gamble is worth it...)

Mr. Zero said...


In ignorance of almost all the relevant information, I guess I'd take the TT job. Bird in the hand or something. But there's nothing that says you have to stay in the TT job; there is something that says you have to leave the VAP. If you take the TT position, at least you'll be at liberty to delay your next foray into the job market until the market picks up.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero is right. It is much easier to secure a good TT job once you have one (even one that is less-than-desirable). Last year I had the choice between a non-TT (open-ended year-to-year renewable contract) faculty position in a less-than-desirable location (Arkansas) and opted instead for an adjunct position in a much nicer location. This year I secured a TT in a less-than-desirable location (not Arkansas) and took it. My advice: take the TT position and go back on the job market in a year or two.

g said...

I would also say take the TT position; probably the wiser choice most of the time, if the place is not terrible, but given how uncertain these times are, it seems like an almost insane choice not to take it. A friend who was in an identical position two years ago did not take the TT job, and now has exactly nothing. A TT is something you at least know will pay the bills three years down the line, and for a worst case scenario, it's a better one than not having anything in three years time.

Josh said...

I hate to be Nancy Negative here, but I think the market is bound to perform worse than we hear in the mainstream. This stress test due out in two weeks is a sham, favoring default swaps over loans and likely to give regional banks poorer ratings than the behemoths. What will this mean? Little in the way of needed policy, restructuring, and management changes to put these banks on the right track. They're sweeping the problem under the rug, meaning it's likely to get worse before it gets better.

My pessimistic prediction: it will be at least a few years before the market gets better, and then a delay before educational markets improve. Remember, it took until 1932 for the United States to implement proper policy changes. Is it too outrageous to think that we may have to wait for 2011 for some decent policymaking?

zombie said...

I'm just more and more pleased every day about having a 2 year postdoc in Canada. Maybe things will be better by the time I get back.

As for VAP vs. TT, unless you really, really don't want to live there, or have a family situation like a working spouse that complicates it, I'd take the TT. Does anyone look favorably on a CV full of VAPs?

Mr. Zero said...

Remember, it took until 1932 for the United States to implement proper policy changes.I don't want to get into a whole big thing here--I don't have a prediction about when things will start to get better. But the lag you mention was caused by Herbert Hoover being President, and not doing anything for three years. Once FDR was elected the policy changes began to be implemented immediately.

Our Hoover analogue left office already; our FDR is already implementing policy changes. There's controversy about whether these changes are the right ones and whether they will be enough, and I don't deny that. But what would change in 2011?

Mr. Zero said...

P.S. Why isn't blogger recognizing the spaces I put between quoted paragraphs and original paragraphs?

Anonymous said...

As an experience search committee member, let me say:

While search committees might not look favorably upon a CV full with VAPs, it is not at all a liability to have, say, one VAP at a top school, i.e., a better one than you can expect getting a TT job at. This might improve your odds of getting a TT job at a more desirable school in 1-2 years.

In other words, the answer is: It depends on where the VAP is, and how much higher that school/dept/program ranks (by whatever measure) than that of a TT position you could realistically get. And it depends if you already have a VAP on your CV.

So, for instance, if you are a new PhD, looking to take either (1) a VAP or even post-doc at an R1 or Ivy League or (2) a TT job at a mid/low-ranked school or in a undesirable locale, then I'd go with (1). Travel around, see new places, meet new colleagues while you're still young.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget about all the TT faculty that are looking to move. Given all the cuts are both publics and privates there will be a number of TT faculty looking for more security.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero, with all due respect, and speaking strictly with respect to the financial crisis, I don't think we see sufficient change in leadership direction. To be sure, there are differences: the stimulus bill had more spending and fewer tax cuts than a similar bill would have had under Bush, and the move to push health care reform through the reconciliation process could turn out to be significant. But even under Bush, we probably would have had some kind of stimulus, and as for policy with respect to the financial industry itself -- AIG, the big banks, etc. -- we have seen absolutely NO CHANGE from the policies of the Bush administration. I think this bodes very ill for the long-term health of the US economy -- to say nothing of the global economy.

Mr. Zero said...

anon 5:52,

1. as for policy with respect to the financial industry itself -- AIG, the big banks, etc. -- we have seen absolutely NO CHANGE from the policies of the Bush administration. I see why you would say that. The new administration is in a difficult position. The problems are deep and systemic, and they must honor the deals made by the previous administration or else the risk undermining their own credibility. I could be wrong, but I think we'll see major changes in the coming months.

2. I still don't see why we should expect the changes to take three years. The three-year delay in 1929 was caused by Hoover's inaction. Obama's not moving as fast as a lot of people would like--Paul Krugman has been pretty critical--but he's no Hoover.

3. In any case, my understanding (and obviously, I'm no economist) is that these economic problems are caused by issues that are fundamentally unresolved. On a deep level, nobody knows what will fix this. We're screwed.