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Master’s Notebook
Do Statisticians
Need a Bailout?
Mani Lakshminarayanan, Past Chair,
Committee on Applied Statisticians
T
here probably aren’t more than just a few hardest hit is the pharmaceutical
who haven’t been inundated with the dismal industry. (My personal opinion is
terms “bailout,” “recession,” “economic that this industry is neither hiring
downturn,” and “job loss” in recent months. The nor expecting to pick up the hiring
current economy profoundly affected the presiden- pace in the near future.) To validate my
tial election, and it is likely to hover like a dark perception, I spoke to Tracey Gmoser of
cloud for most of the coming year. Smith Hanley, who said, “Our pharma-
CNNMoney.com recently broke a story titled ceutical group saw an increase in our
“Worst Year for Jobs Since ’45.” It indicated that biostatistics permanent placement
more than 2.6 million jobs were lost last year, the business in addition to our nonclini-
highest level in more than six decades. The only pos- cal statistics group (financial services,
itive aspect to the story was that employment sectors marketing science, and manufactur-
such as government, education, and health services ing) that experienced a small increase.
added about 50,000 jobs in December 2008. Over the past couple of years, the top
How many of us have lost our jobs? Who is hir- 10 pharmaceutical industries have had
ing in this economic downturn? More importantly, a limited number of new headcounts com-
do we need a bailout? These are questions that we, pared to previous years.”
as statisticians should be asking. My response to the Tracey’s quick assessment of the job postings
latter is, “No, we don’t.” Let me tell you why. in Amstat News for three months in 2008 com-
The general perception is that many employers have pared to the same three months in 2007 indicated
either stopped hiring or postponed hiring until after there were only three fewer industry jobs in 2008.
the markets turn around. One of the industries to be My obsessive curiosity got the best of me and I did
FEBRUARY 2009 AMSTAT NEWS 31
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