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Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 1:21 EDT

Scientists And Engineers Experience Lower Unemployment Rates

January 29, 2011

Data released today by the National Science Foundation show the recent economic recession had less effect on doctoral degree holders in science, engineering and health (SEH) fields than it did on the general population.

According to a new NSF report, the unemployment rate in October 2008 for SEH doctorate recipients was 1.7 percent, whereas the unemployment rate for the total U.S. labor force was 6.6 percent.

The report, “Unemployment Among Doctoral Scientists and Engineers Remained Below the National Average in 2008,” was issued by NSF’s Division of Science Resources Statistics.

The report found that about 752,000 individuals in the United States held SEH research doctoral degrees in 2008, an increase of 5.6 percent from 2006. Of this, 662,600 were employed or actively seeking work.

Unemployment rates ranged from 1 percent among SEH doctorate recipients in mathematics and statistics to 2.4 percent for those in the physical sciences.

As measured by the percentage unemployed, more recent recipients of doctorates did not differ significantly from those who received their doctorates before 2006.

Of those employed, female doctorate recipients made up 30.7 percent of all employed SEH doctorate holders in October 2008, up from 29.4 percent in April 2006.

In 2008, the labor force participation rate–that is, individuals actively employed or seeking employment–among SEH doctorate holders was 89.7 percent for women compared with 87.4 percent for men. Female SEH doctorate holders were less likely than their male counterparts to be employed full time, but were more likely to be employed part time.

The largest portion of employed SEH doctorate recipients, 41.4 percent, worked at four-year educational institutions in 2008. Private for-profit firms employed about 32.6 percent of the SEH doctoral workforce.

More information from this report can be found on the National Science Foundation’s website.

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