A new, 11 October 2012, blog post by Jenna Goudreau of Forbes staff using data from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University reports that anthropology and archaeology top the list of the worse college majors in economic terms.
Topping the list at No. 1, anthropology and archeology represent the worst choice of college major in economic terms. Recent college graduates of the major, those ages 22 to 26, can expect an unemployment rate of 10.5%, well above the national average. When they do land a job, the median salary is just $28,000, compared to a mechanical engineer’s initial earnings of $58,000.
Charles Mount has been following construction activity as a proxy variable for commercial archaeology work in Ireland (Mount 2012). His data show that a slowdown in construction results in a reduction in commercial archaeology, a well known trend around the world. Applying this concept to the UK we can look at the construction industry as a proxy for possible commercial archaeology activitiy. In this case, the The Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) is used. The results show that while construction was very strong at the beginning of the year, especially March, the index has been falling in the last couple of months. It is currently flirting with contraction, a reading of under 50, and it is unlikely that commercial archaeology, as a whole sector, will have seen lots of growth in the last few months.
Taking a longer view of the sector shows some clouds on the horizon. The UK government is now providing pipeline views of new construction projects anticipated over the next couple of years. These are big projects, £10 million plus, but these projects indicate a drop in government construction projects over the next few years. Government construction projects make up 40 percent of the construction sector.
|Count of Entries||Sum of 2011/12 (£m)||Sum of 2012/13 (£m)||Sum of 2013/14 (£m)||Sum of 2014/15 (£m)|
|Flood||38||£224 m||£289 m||£273 m||£251 m|
|Health||158||£590 m||£1,066 m||£983 m||£807 m|
|Housing & Regeneration||47||£1,789 m||£1,100 m||£1,281 m||£1,552 m|
|Justice||14||£203 m||£254 m||£280 m||£78 m|
|Transport||68||£3,596 m||£3,411 m||£3,622 m||£4,001 m|
|Waste||35||£594 m||£1,090 m||£1,407 m||£803 m|
|Education||£2,504 m||£1,640 m||£486 m|
|MOD||90||£396 m||£732 m||£627 m||£592 m|
|Police Authorities||132||£216 m||£14 m||£15 m||£03 m|
|Home Office||6||£13 m|
|Nuclear Decommissioning||24||£313 m||£275 m||£360 m||£449 m|
|Research||10||£13 m||£23 m||£14 m||£11 m|
|Further Education||1||£17 m||£153 m||£59 m||£01 m|
|Culture, Media and Sport||4||£1,098 m||£467 m||£425 m||£117 m|
|FCO Embassies||£42 m||£64 m||£69 m||£65 m|
|Coal Authority||2||£06 m||£07 m||£08 m||£08 m|
|Grand Total||629||£11,614 m||£10,586 m||£9,908 m||£8,738 m|
This could pickup as more projects are proposed and more money is allotted to large government construction projects. However, there needs to be a 25 percent increase in money allotted for proposed projects by 2014/15 to keep the supply constant. It looks as though construction will not see large growth in the next few months and there are head winds for the future. This means that commercial archaeology is probably in a similar setting. Do not expect a large contraction, but there is unlikely to be a large pickup either.
As should always be noted, a large catastrophic event make all projects redundant.
Mount, C. 2012. Indicators suggest that archaeological activity in Ireland continued to decline in the third quarter of 2012. The Charles Mount Blog, 4 October 2012. http://charles-mount.ie/wp/?p=960
Charles Mount has published some numbers on excavation licenses for Irish archaeology during the first two quarters of 2012–and the news is not good. You can see the full numbers in his post:
Landward Research Ltd recently completed a report on the State of the Archaeological Market in the UK. There is both good news and bad news for the state of professional archaeology. Job losses have stabilized since the the recession but they are still down 800 positions (5,900) from pre-crash levels (6,700), though these numbers do not take into account the potential growth in jobs had the recession not occurred. Looking at the Profiling the Profession reports (provided at the Landward Website) between 2002-03 and 2007-08, employment increased by 20 percent. Had that trend continued, there would currently be around 8000 archaeology jobs in the UK. This puts the actual losses at closer to 2,000 jobs. This larger number probably explains the tough competition among recent graduates and veterans for jobs, there are five years of students who have not been able to obtain jobs except from positions created by the retirement of archaeologists.
When asked if the employment situation will improve, the report shows that the opinions expressed by commercial companies and other organizations are split. Read more…
Its list time in Canada, when many of the provincial lists of qualified archaeological firms get updated. Recent articles in Heritage Business Journal have noted a shift in market share away from heritage-only firms. In the draft of the current list of qualified Alberta archaeological consultants there are 27 companies listed: 19 of these were heritage-only firms and 8 were multidisciplinary firms. This listing also suggests that multidisciplinary firms have more staff (average of 2.8 vs. 1.8 for the heritage-only firms). There are three caveats here. First, I sorted the firms on my knowledge of what they do–they are not listed that way. Second, while more heritage-only firms have a single archaeologist, the number of staff on the list is not very consistent. Third, it should be noted that not all the firms on the list are actually in Alberta, in case readers are wondering how a single province supports 27 archaeology firms.
Archaeology, like many environmental services, is a requirement for some development approvals. Developers who do not know how to find an archaeologist are given the list of qualified firms. My hunch is that lists such as the Alberta Consultant’s List form the entire marketing plan for many small heritage-only firms. This raises the question of whether the reported switch to multidisciplinary firms is due to a customer desire for one stop shopping, or whether it is because multidisciplinary firms out-market and out-brand heritage only firms. Read more…
A very thoughtful comment was made about HBJ post Employment: Multidisiplinary firms vs. heritage-only firms (18 Feb 2012):
“Large multi-service firms tend hire and terminate for each project because their offices rarely have enough local work to retain technicians. They tend to have centralized full time labs and production centers that do not have positions for techs for after fieldwork tasks. Whereas many hertiage-only company like CRA use full-time technicians in a variety of tasks. The ability to live near a company’s office(s) to come in and do post-fieldwork tasks is the key to full time work. In addition the ability to move techs and other staff between offices reduce the need for temporary project specific techs except for the largest field projects. Plus in any given year we receive enough cold call applicants from technicians with good resumes that simply working the resume file drawer eliminates the need for an ad for most projects.”Steve Creasman and Kay Simpson
A high turnover of technicians in multi-service firms could easily explain why there are more job advertisements from these types of companies than from heritage-only firms. To explore this more, I also took a look at senior positions (e.g. principle investigators, senior archaeologists, office/regional managers) for the same 2011 data set. Of course titles are not standardized across the sector and names can be misleading, but a full 46% of the job advertisements reviewed asked for 10-25 years of experience and 55% asked for 5-9 years of experience (a slight overlap with some asking for 8-12 years). The job descriptions and requirements (years of experience, permits, etc.) firmly place these jobs in the top levels of employment regardless of title. None of these jobs mentioned temporary employment but that does not mean it is not. However, asking for 20 years of experience for a temporary job would be rare but not unheard of (or it should be in my personal opinion). Out of 79 job postings, 61 of them mentioned their employers (some of the job postings have been removed making it impossible to see who was the employer). In this data set the breakdown is even more lopsided in favor of multi-service firms
Heritage-only firms may look for their top-level workers through other means than advertisement such as internal promotion or through professional networks. A lack of lower level positions in multi-service firms may make it hard for them to recruit internally. What these data do show is that the majority of job advertisements for archaeologists at all career levels was dominated by multi-service firms in 2011. Does this mean they get the majority of business? That can not be determined from these numbers but employment may indicate strong growth prospects.
In October of 2011, Charles Mount blogged about the correlation of construction output and archaeological licences in Ireland. The correlation was such that you could predict with some confidence, either licences or construction output, from the other. Clever, but what drives the Canadian CRM industry?
Unfortunately, as pointed out recently in HBJ by Christopher Dore (17 February 2012), there is no North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code for CRM archaeology and there are no country wide statistics on archaeological activity in Canada. Hence begins the quest for drivers for the Canadian CRM industry.
Initial speculation was that price of oil was a significant driver in the archaeological economies of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Both provinces have growing and diverse economies, but the petroleum industry is an important component of the economy. There is no single price of oil, but the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) produced a nice online summary of the price of light, sweet crude. Saskatchewan has both light and heavy crude. For this analysis I looked at the maximum weekly price for the year, the minimum weekly price for the year, and the closing price during the last week of the year.
Next I looked at the number of archaeological permits issued by Alberta and Saskatchewan between 2008 and 2011. There are a few differences in the numbers and types of permits that both provinces issue, but these are not material to the analysis. Overall for this time period, there was a sharp decline in 2009 with a slow recovery in 2010 and 2011.
The number of permits appears to be well correlated with the maximum price of oil (permits and oil prices are normalized to a maximum value of 100). Permits also correlated with the minimum and December close, however for the latter two, the price of oil leads the number of permits by a year. So the minimum price of oil sharply declined in 2008, the year with the highest price, but the decline in permits took place in 2009.
Does this make sense? It does. There is a base price to drill and if the price of oil is too low, it is better to scale back production until prices rise. My prediction is that given the high December closing price, the number of archaeological permits will increase in 2012.
What about other provinces? I am collecting data but I am curious what others think are the prime economic drivers of their regions.