The Post-Pandemic Recovery of the Economics Job Market

INOMICS Salary Report

The Post-Pandemic Recovery of the Economics Job Market

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The outbreak of COVID-19 created a worldwide recession, and many people experienced reduced work hours or unemployment because of it. Economists were not immune from this. In early 2021, INOMICS reported that one third of economists (especially those in the Global South) faced negative impacts on their careers due to the pandemic. Most affected were economists working in the private sector, though economists in the academic sector faced other issues.

However, our 2022 Salary Report delivered some good news: the job market for economists appears to have recovered significantly since the beginning of the pandemic. In this article, we will analyze the Salary Report’s findings and show how economist jobs appear to have recovered across the world.

In the INOMICS Salary Report, we collected and analyzed survey data about economists’ careers worldwide. You can download the full report and examine the economics gender gap information in detail by downloading the Report.

Economist employment levels and pay increasing after 2021

The Salary Report showed that fewer economists were unemployed during 2022 than in 2021. This is especially true for economists with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, according to our survey data:

  • Just 2.2% of PhD economists were unemployed during the 2022 survey period, compared with 6.6% in the 2021 period.
  • 4.4% of economists whose highest degree attained is a Master’s degree were unemployed in the 2022 survey period. For the 2021 period, this figure was 11.6%.
  • About 21.7% of economists whose highest degree attained is a Bachelor’s degree were unemployed during the 2022 survey period compared to 51.4% in the 2021 survey period.

The above figures clearly show that while PhD economists’ employment was least affected by the pandemic, even PhD economists have enjoyed a 4.4 percentage point reduction in unemployment since 2021 (i.e., from 6.6% down to 2.2% for a total reduction in unemployment of 4.4 percentage points). Meanwhile, Master’s degree economist unemployment decreased by 5.2 percentage points and Bachelor’s unemployment decreased by 29.7 percentage points.

Moreover, earnings rose for economists in this period compared to earlier years. While PhD economist earnings rose 7.0% over the 2022 survey period, average Master’s earnings rose 26.3%, and average Bachelor’s earnings rose 32.1%. Taken as a whole, this data suggests that the job market for less-educated economists, which was more negatively affected by the pandemic, has been recovering. Meanwhile, the job market for PhD economists has been experiencing moderate growth since the depths of the pandemic.

Re-examining economist jobs in the Global South

Again, our data from 2021 showed that economists in the Global South were more negatively affected by the pandemic than others. How have economist jobs in these regions been recovering?

Economist unemployment in select regions

The above data from our survey show that the trend of reduced unemployment since the height of the pandemic is realized in the Global South, too. There are two important things to note about this data taken from our Salary Report: first, these statistics combine economists of all backgrounds and levels of experience. Second, countries that are often considered part of the Global North were removed from the calculations that generated these statistics. Specifically, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Russia, Israel, South Africa, South Korea, the Hong Kong SAR region of China, and Singapore were removed when creating this graph.

As a comparison, the following chart tracks the same data for the remaining regions in our salary data:

Change in economist unemployment in Europe and North America

When comparing these regions to the regions in the Global South, it appears that unemployment for economists was similarly reduced across the entire world. Every region experienced a reduction in unemployment, and every region’s “economist unemployment” rate was cut by more than half in 2022 compared to 2021. This lends further weight to the idea that the global pandemic was indeed a major factor causing higher unemployment for economists in 2021, since it was a global, indiscriminate phenomenon.

Remote work appears to be sticking in most regions

Beyond the apparent recovery of jobs and pay for economists, the distribution of work (whether in-person or remote) has shifted for most since before the pandemic. The majority have seen increases in remote work, and most of the remainder saw no change. Only 11.6% of economists reported working more on-site. These results are remarkably robust, as most economists across employment categories and different types of employer report similar results.

Figure 29: How has the amount of remote work in your workplace changed since the pandemic?

The largest deviation comes from those employed at central banks, which have seen a larger increase in remote work. Just over 76% of economists at central banks reported more remote work since before the pandemic, compared to about 56% of economists overall.

Regionally, increases in returns to the office seem to be concentrated in South Asia and Central Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. It’s plausible that less reliable or widespread digital infrastructure could encourage economists to work in an office more frequently. It may also be less common for employees to have their own home office space in these regions.

However, the increase in remote work in some regions has a downside. Among our survey respondents, a significant number of academic economists (though still a minority of academic economists overall) complained about the increase of remote work in their jobs. The downsides, as expressed by these economists, mainly consist of reduced contact with colleagues and students.

In an academic setting, interpersonal interaction can be important. It can increase learning for students and effective collaboration among colleagues for teaching and research purposes. Several economists have lamented that increased remote work has hurt these typical benefits of working in an academic setting by reducing the amount of contact people would normally have.

For more data on the state of economics in 2022 and since the COVID-19 pandemic, see the 2022 Salary Report.

Do these survey results reflect your work experience since the COVID-19 pandemic? Are you working more remotely, for better or worse, as well? Feel free to share your own experiences in the comments below!

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