Friday, May 21, 2010

Teachers Facing Weakest Market in Years

New York Times article "Teachers Facing Weakest Market in Years" (May 19th, 2010) laments the state of the educational and teaching market. It suggests teachers face a dire labor market. This doesn't line up with our fact-check.

The recession seems to have penetrated a profession long seen as recession-proof. Superintendents, education professors and people seeking work say teachers are facing the worst job market since the Great Depression. Amid state and local budget cuts, cash-poor urban districts like New York City and Los Angeles, which once hired thousands of young people every spring, have taken down the help-wanted signs.

The article discusses how this has been a terrible labor market for teachers. Indeed, it has been in a sense--layoffs have increased dramatically off-trend. However, educational hiring has also increased off-trend. Examining the linear trend in hiring from 2000-2005 and projecting it out to 2010, we examine the difference between cumulative predicted hiring to actual cumulative hiring. The deviations from indexed expected hiring and layoffs in both educational jobs and the private market are displayed graphically below (click to enlarge).

Examining the figure, we can see that while layoffs have increased dramatically off-trend for teachers, so have hires. Corrections hasn't given evidence for whether or not teachers are actually in a better position than the average worker in the private realm, just as the Times only gave anecdotal evidence and projections, but no actual data on the teaching job market. Nor have we definitively pinned down the causes of increased unemployment, if it is present. Corrections does suggest that this gives some evidence that the evidence the Times cites, such as dozens of people applying for single jobs, is at least in some significant part a supply-side trend, rather than completely a demand-side trend, due to layoffs.

Addendum: We can also observe indexed, seasonally adjusted private employment and educational employment, displayed graphically below (click to enlarge). It makes our point even more strongly, and further suggests to Corrections that this "worst job market for teachers" is simply a supply-shift by unemployed persons seeking teacher's jobs, rather than a demand shift from layoffs.


  1. Excellent analysis. Further it would seem as though a question could be raised as to why one would expect a significant ongoing increase in the number of students. Educational expenditures have risen dramatically in the last decade plus. Yet the population is expanding by less than 1% per year and an important part of that stems from the lengthening lifespan - a population unlikely to contribute to demands for teachers. If the expenditures on education are being spent efficiently and productivity is rising then the rate of growth should be even higher. Perhaps if the drive for improvements in education in growing some non-performing teachers are being laid off. Life is complicated. The article makes a mistake picking out a couple of threads from a complex tapestry and trying to draw conclusions from it. Makes one wonder if there was an agenda underlying that conclusion.

  2. Corrections agrees. However, we note that education is an investment that young people make--it is expensive to undertake, and individuals recoup the cost of that undertaking over an entire lifetime. As (working) lifetimes increase, education becomes more beneficial.

    Therefore, if lifespans of 12-year-olds increase by 1%, we might expect more educational expenditure than if the number of 12-year-olds increases by 1%. This is one additional reason why educational expenditures might rise even if population shrinks.