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Job Market: Optimism, Tempered by Worries

This time of year, the academic job market is marked by doctoral students and Ph.D.‘s trolling though job ads and painstakingly assembling application packets.

But with the economy in a tailspin, new sources of anxiety have surfaced for job seekers. Steep budget cuts, either anticipated or in place, threaten many colleges. So do hiring freezes or slowdowns. Some institutions are already couching their job ads in timid terms: Two tenure-track appointments in history at Auburn University are “contingent on funding,” according to a Chronicle advertisement that is among several that include such cautionary words.

“The big worry is whether these jobs will really be filled,” says Robert B. Townsend, assistant director of research and publications at the American Historical Association. Job listings in the group’s publications from September to early October are down 8 percent compared with the same period last year.

Not all is doom and gloom, however — at least not yet. Indeed, several scholarly associations offer a tempered optimism about doctoral students’ prospects.

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