The 2009 Job Center: Change and Continuity

At the Job Center at this year’s annual meeting in New York City, many applicants (and, to be honest, search committees) were worried about how recent economic news was going to affect the history job market. The final numbers from the Job Center, detailed below, tend to confirm these concerns.

As Robert B. Townsend reported in the January 2009 issue, job advertising in Perspectives on History declined 15 percent in fall 2008, and many departments are concerned that fiscal difficulties on the state level will result in the freezing of funds for new hires. Nevertheless, 198 active searches in New York were reported to Job Center staff, with 44 of those searches collecting c.v.’s and arranging interviews on site. Both of these numbers were down from the 2008 Washington, D.C. annual meeting, where we found 261 active searches and 62 of them arranging interviews on site. 80 searches this year took advantage of the free Job Center tables in the Rhinelander Gallery, and another 51 rented official AHA interview parlors. The remainder of the searches made their own interview space reservations independent of the Job Center. We believe that the decline in the number of searches this year can be attributed mostly to two things: first, the economy; and second, many searches took advantage of inexpensive suites at the Doubletree hotel and by-passed Job Center facilities altogether (not even reporting the search to the Job Center). The number of searches reported to the Job Center has declined each year since the 2006 annual meeting in Philadelphia, despite a good job market until this past year, which suggests more schools are making their own space arrangements or finishing searches prior to the annual meeting in early January.

Nevertheless, some things about the Job Center remain constant. The typical search using AHA facilities interviewed 11 candidates this year, unchanged from previous years. Likewise, as noted above, roughly a quarter of the searches at the annual meeting were collecting c.v.’s, a percentage that has not changed in recent years. Finally, the breakdown of specializations has been remarkably stable over the past several years. This year the fields were, in order: United States (30 percent of searches), Europe (21 percent), Asia (15 percent), World (12 percent), Latin America, (7 percent), Africa (7 percent), thematic history (6 percent), and Middle East (5 percent).

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