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Poll results: What do you think the unemployment rate among planners is?

Voters
58. You may not vote on this poll
  • 0% - 2.4%

    0 0%
  • 2.5% - 4.9%

    2 3.45%
  • 5.0% - 7.4%

    2 3.45%
  • 7.5% - 9.9%

    6 10.34%
  • 10.0% - 12.4%

    9 15.52%
  • 12.5% - 14.9%

    6 10.34%
  • 15.0% - 17.4%

    15 25.86%
  • 17.5% - 19.9%

    6 10.34%
  • 20.0% - 24.9%

    4 6.90%
  • 25.0% - 29.9%

    4 6.90%
  • More than 30%

    4 6.90%
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Thread: Unemployment rate among planners: your guess?

  1. #1
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Unemployment rate among planners: your guess?

    What do you think the unemployment rate is among professional urban planners in the United States? For the sake of argument, let's consider "planners" to include those who graduated with an undergraduate or graduate degree in urban planning a year or more ago, and those who would, when asked about their profession, say that they are a planner.

    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  2. #2
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    oh man.....based on nothing but anecdotal evidence I'd say definitely double digits. Maybe like 15-18%?

    Edit: a poll got added. I'll refine that guess to 16.5%
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Would it be between 12.3 % Local government, excluding education http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t17.htm
    and the National rate of 9.7 % ?
    Last edited by JNA; 15 Feb 2010 at 4:30 PM.
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  4. #4
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    Are you also including planners who have taken jobs in non planning sectors as a necessity and others who have given up looking?
    @GigCityPlanner

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Interesting. You might as well take into account the underemployed planners as well. (those whom have taken furloughs, etc). Watch that number skyrocket.
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  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    I think it's much higher at 30-35%. I think each graduating class of planners and landscape architects is larger than the last, especially since many were coming from other professions. Some students, but certainly not all, might come from other industries, banking, finance, advertising, etc. and feel a need to give back to their community through planning. The media still shows us as a growing profession with "plenty of green jobs" in the future. On areforum.org, architects are guessing their unemployment rate nationwide hovers around 30-40%, with up to 60% in metropolitan areas hardest hit by the housing bust. However, there are about 190,000 registered architects, not to mention even more non-registered architectural professionals, as opposed to 35,000-40,000 planners.

    As for underemployed planners, I would guess around 50-60% nationwide up from 30-40% in better times. Was this year's APA salary survey shorter than previous years?
    Last edited by nrschmid; 15 Feb 2010 at 5:50 PM.
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  7. #7
    Raises a few points for me.

    First, do you consider people who work for think tanks (smart growth etc.) planners?

    Second, the websites recommended in the sticky for jobs, so far, have got nothing. They stink right now. The only thing I can think of is to pick a location I want to work, find 15-20 companies or city offices, and cold call asking if they have work available.
    Or I am going to the AAG conference in April and maybe they will have planning organizations at the job booth.


    Third, do you have recommendations for a young soon to be graduate as to how to find jobs, because I don't see much right now. I have been going pretty much by the guide on this page.


    Fourth, worst case, if I can't get a job, what should I do? Interning, I don't know, I kind of need cash.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    Based on all the planners I know who are either a) not working in planning, but have other jobs b) graduating in the past year/year and a half and still don't have a job and c) those simply laid off and out of work.


    Just under 20%
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  9. #9
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Our state conference is in 3 weeks. I checked out the registration web site this morning. 2 day member rate is $199. The rate for unemployed member planners - the first time I have ever seen this rate category BTW - is $42.50.

    What about a rate us unemployed planners that are non-members because the dues for APA + State are too high?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Chet View post
    Our state conference is in 3 weeks. I checked out the registration web site this morning. 2 day member rate is $199. The rate for unemployed member planners - the first time I have ever seen this rate category BTW - is $42.50.

    What about a rate us unemployed planners that are non-members because the dues for APA + State are too high?
    The APA has a reduced rate for unemployed planners as does the AICP, I took advantage of it for 2 years. Also for AICP you can get a quarterly exemption from Continuing Education reporting. Look into it, it's on their website but you may have to search for it, I think it was less than $90 for the year with AICP dues included.
    @GigCityPlanner

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
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    I went with the 15-17.4% range. This is just a guess based on the volume of attention that job openings around me have gotten in the last year. It's sort of like throwing a steak into a pirahna tank at feeding time.
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  12. #12
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    I said 15%-17.4% truly unemployed. That number increases each December and May as more students graduate. I'm hearing some absolutely frightening statistics on the ability for recent graduates to find jobs.

    If you include underemployment, I'll peg that number at around 35%-40%.

    I haven't seen the issues around here so much, but I have enough friends in other markets to know that I'm incredibly lucky and that the situation elsewhere is awful at best.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  13. #13
    Cyburbian TerraSapient's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by surfer1280 View post

    First, do you consider people who work for think tanks (smart growth etc.) planners?

    Second, the websites recommended in the sticky for jobs, so far, have got nothing. They stink right now. The only thing I can think of is to pick a location I want to work, find 15-20 companies or city offices, and cold call asking if they have work available.
    Surfer - this is how I landed my planning internship and my first job! It actually worked very well, I was even able to network a bit in the local planning community and make a few long-term contacts, despite their firm not having work.

    I highly recommend this method as a supplement to traditional job hunting. Remember that an organization or firm who is hiring will be reviewing dozens or more applicants. However, the firm that you cold call and develop a relationship with probably isn't, so if they have a recently opened position or one in the near future, establishing a relationship ahead of time can increase your chances of being called in for an interview.

    I researched all the local planning firms, then mailed a cover letter and resume to each one, then called 3-5 days after I anticipated the resume arriving.

    As for the poll - I guessed just under 10%, however I presume it is actually much higher if you include the underemployed, probably 30%.

  14. #14
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    not sure. but for a historical reference, my 65 yo former boss (i.e. before we were both laid off from a so cal developer in fall 08) has been in planning, arch, development entire career. when asked if he'd ever seen it this bad, his reply was "not even close"-not in recession of 70s, early 80s, etc. NEVER. it's going to be a long road back-chin up kids

  15. #15
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ben5215 View post
    not sure. but for a historical reference, my 65 yo former boss (i.e. before we were both laid off from a so cal developer in fall 08) has been in planning, arch, development entire career. when asked if he'd ever seen it this bad, his reply was "not even close"-not in recession of 70s, early 80s, etc. NEVER. it's going to be a long road back-chin up kids
    In that earlier recession we had 701 planning grants, CDBG was just starting, Urban Development Action Grants, Economic Development Agency programs, and the Jobs Bill to stimulate the economy.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mike gurnee View post
    In that earlier recession we had 701 planning grants, CDBG was just starting, Urban Development Action Grants, Economic Development Agency programs, and the Jobs Bill to stimulate the economy.
    So true. I have said it before - a recession usually meant plenty of federal and state money flowing to communities to strategize their way out of the holw. Not this time. Instead, local governments are seeing state money dry up. Post stimulus, the feds are cutting back too.
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  17. #17
    Cyburbian PrahaSMC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    So true. I have said it before - a recession usually meant plenty of federal and state money flowing to communities to strategize their way out of the holw. Not this time. Instead, local governments are seeing state money dry up. Post stimulus, the feds are cutting back too.
    Ultimately, I think the difference is that the current recession isn't a blip like many of the previous ones- this is a long, slow, painful purging after the decades of debt, corruption, and inefficiency that had plagued our large corporations, financial systems, and government. Friedman argues, pretty convincingly, that we are entering a period of lean years, after a generation of living high-off-the-hog. We're all going to be paying more, for fewer services.

    Federal, state, and municipal budgets across the country are in record debt; this will have a long-term negative impact on all professions that depend on government hiring, save the military and other national security related jobs. At the local level, cities and towns across the country are going to look towards consolidation and regionalization as a means pooling resources and gaining efficiency savings (they already are). This will result in fewer positions at the local level, especially for non-essential services like planning. The writing is on the wall... planning is always going to be an important profession, but public sector positions are contracting, at the same time programs are sending more and more graduates into the field. Like any other labor market, things will level out, but it might take a decade.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by PrahaSMC View post
    Ultimately, I think the difference is that the current recession isn't a blip like many of the previous ones- this is a long, slow, painful purging after the decades of debt, corruption, and inefficiency that had plagued our large corporations, financial systems, and government.
    In other words, a depression.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Plan-it's avatar
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    From what I can see, Architectural employment is the harbinger of the future as far as development industries are concerned (planners included). People need to design their buildings before they are able to actually build anything. In the Atlanta area, Architects have been especially hard hit because so much of our employment was in construction related industries. We assumed that at the peak, we had upwards of a 35% unemployment rate (architects, landscape architects, and planners - not including new professionals who came out of school with no work experience). Recently, we have seen encouraging signs of more architects being hired back to their old firms and new firms. This in encouraging and we hope to be a signal of development moving again (albeit at a slower rate).
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  20. #20
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    Depressing

    This is all extremely depressing for a soon to be grad in planning. I chose the URP master's program because of all the hype about an abundance of jobs in this sector. hmmm, I wonder why there are no jobs?

  21. #21
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jehren View post
    This is all extremely depressing for a soon to be grad in planning. I chose the URP master's program because of all the hype about an abundance of jobs in this sector. hmmm, I wonder why there are no jobs?
    In fairness, 2+ years ago when you entered the URP master's program there were an abundance of jobs in this sector. I'm in Texas, and I remember receiving marketing materials in 2007 trying to recruit planners to move to Florida. They were doing all kinds of relocation incentives and other inticements. Oh how things have changed. Then about halfway through 2008 the fit hit the shan in the housing and finance economic sectors. Property values plummeted, foreclosures spiked, unemployment began increasing, and developers hit the eject button. Credit markets constricted, which made once feasible projects halt as developers had to increase their liquid capital. All of this killed the private sector because they often rely on developers as their primary client, and local governments were facing budget shortfalls and were not eager to incur the cost of planning consultants (deferring their long-range planning efforts). As local government continued to deal with budget shortfalls, hiring freezes were put in place, followed by layoffs through attrition, furloughing existing employees and finally reduction in force of warm bodies. When faced with deciding who to cut in a local government RIF, police/fire/ems are untouchable. Given the circumstances of the economy, planning departments became a natural target because their measurable workload dropped off.

    To make matters worse, the economic recession did a number on retirement plans. Folks that should have been retiring from senior-level planning positions to allow upward movement were forced to put retirement plans on hold and rebuild their nesteggs.

    The employment situation varies a lot regionally. For example, in planning departments around my part of Texas you would hardly know there was a recession. Part of this is because many people are relocating here for employment opportunities and that is keeping us afloat. But even in recession-resistent Texas there have been hiring freezes and RIFs on occassion, particularly in the DFW area.

    This has been a sudden freefall and it will be a very slow climb back up the mountain. I think we are looking at a lost decade similar to what Japan went/is going through.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  22. #22
    Cyburbian a.kid's avatar
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    any idea when all this might turn around? When are planning jobs projected to be in demand again?

  23. #23
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by a.kid View post
    any idea when all this might turn around? When are planning jobs projected to be in demand again?
    As Suburb Repairman put it:
    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman
    I think we are looking at a lost decade similar to what Japan went/is going through.
    That doesn't mean the market will be as atrocious as it is right now for the next decade. Jobs will come back, but it'll be slow going and take quite a while for municipalities to add employees-- even if development kicks into high gear. There will be a tremendous reluctance to add costs when the budget beat down was so harsh last time.
    Last edited by boiker; 19 Mar 2010 at 2:23 PM. Reason: more thoughts
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
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    The data geek in me wanted numbers, so I checked the BLS's employment by occupation data. Not a perfect data source, but at least it's something. I wonder about the pre-2000 data, because the standard occupational code system changed in 2000, so perhaps pre-2000 data isn't exactly comparable to 2000 and later data. But it's what we've got.

    Urban and Regional Planners

    Occ Code 27105 (1997-99) / 19-3051 (2000 and later)

    1997: 33,380
    1998: 32,730
    1999: 28,730
    2000: 28,850
    2001: 31,130
    2002: 30,460
    2003: 30,770
    2004: 31,140
    2005: 31,650
    2006: 32,640
    2007: 35,040
    2008: 37,120

    So, the data shows that there has been a steady increase in the number of planners in the U.S. from 2005 to 2008. However, there was a sharp decline in the number of planners from 1997 to 1999. Is this a problem with the data or was there a lot of planner job loss in the late 1990s? I'm not sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were a lot of jobs lost as this was the tail end of the last housing trough. Interesting that it wasn't until 2007 that planning employment surpassed what it was in 1997 (according to BLS).



    This graph shows the data along with error bars to show the range of each estimate. Error ranged from 1.6 and 4.7 percent for each year's estimate.



    I dedided to try to standardize planning employment against population. IT seems that, from 1999 to 2006, you could reliably say that there were between 105 and 110 U.S. planners per million U.S. residents. If this is the "natural" employment rate for U.S. planners, then 2007-2008 had unsustainable levels of employment (though employment in 1997-98 might contradict this).



    To continue the fun, I looked at average yearly wage (as reported by BLS: hourly wage x 2080). Planners had a moderate inflation-adjusted income increase from 1997 to 2005, with a gentle decline after.

    So what does this mean? If we accept these number as true, and we assume that employment rates have plummeted back to around what they were in 1999-2000, then there are as many as 8,270 unemployed planners out there, or 22 percent of the 2008 number. I assume that 2008 will prove to be a high point, as I doubt that the number of planners increased in 2009. I also assume that it will take years to climb back up to recent levels of planning employment, and future employment will grow slowly in concert with population growth.

    Sometimes statistics aren't fun.

  25. #25
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    Yep

    I am one of those 8,270 unemployed planners out there.

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