Economists are Employed, But Do They Like Their Jobs?

Greg Mankiw links to an article that says there is no unemployment among phD economists. (With an analogy that might be too timely, he says it's like "being an undertaker during a plague.") But isn't there almost certainly underemployment among phD economists?

From the US News article:

Economics has long been called the dismal science. The general economic outlook today is indeed dismal, but that doesn't mean job prospects in the field are. "There is no unemployment among Ph.D.'s in economics," declares John Siegfried, a Vanderbilt University professor. Just do the math, and you'll see why: In the current academic year, the American Economics Association has listed approximately 2,200 job openings worldwide--but U.S. universities will grant only 950 Ph.D.'s in economics.

But I suspect those 2,200 jobs openings are not the most desirable. The most desirable jobs are ones like Mankiw's -- teaching at a major reasearch university (and maybe writing a blog on the side). The Wall Street Journal says that "Among newly minted economics Ph.D.s, jobs at top-ranked universities and business schools are the most sought after." The problem for economists isn't that there are fewer jobs, but the there are fewer really cool jobs:

The dismal economy has claimed yet another victim: jobs for the economists who study it.

Columbia University's economics department, for example, isn't making any new hires this year. That's in stark contrast to last year, when Columbia poached eight economics professors from other schools, and hired one economist out of graduate school. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Amherst College and the University of Minnesota all have suspended their searches for economics professors. And Harvard University has gotten permission to hire just one person -- only after "many rounds of negotiation," according to Harvard economist Lawrence Katz, who is handling recruiting this year. Typically, Harvard hires two or three economics professors out of graduate school.

Underemployment usually refers to a situation in which an employee's skills are not being put to full use. I don't know whether the average phD economist isn't getting as much stimulation at the World Bank as he would in the halls of UC Berekely. But if the academic jobs are the most desirable, then the phDs probably feel underemployed when they have to trudge off to a federal reserve bank or the IMF.

(Also, there should probably be a ban on making jokes about the "dismal science" in these articles about the job market for economists.)