Image Credit: Pew Research Center
Due to the poor economy, this year is turning out to be a very tough year for those of us who want to find faculty positions. With a lot of states suffering from large budget deficits and a lot of endowments (donated money that has been invested, with the profits used to fund the school) having lost a large fraction of their values, many schools cannot afford to hire new faculty right now. Many other schools are worried that if they hire someone, budget cuts next year might lead to a need for pay cuts or layoffs, and so they are not hiring either. In short, there are fewer faculty jobs than normal being offered, and several jobs that were advertised have since been withdrawn.
For those of us hoping to get faculty jobs, the smaller number of them makes this year's hunt all the more nerve-wracking. And since many of the people in the faculty job market are my age, I know a lot of them. I don't imagine myself in competition with my friends and colleagues; I hope we all get good faculty jobs. But there are far more people on the market than there are faculty positions, which means that there will be some good astronomers who either have to wait or have to move to the private sector. And that is why many of us are nervously hanging on every rumor and nuance that comes down the pike.
P.S. If you look at the sun with a telescope like the observer in the cartoon above is, you'll never get a faculty job in astronomy. You'll also be lucky if you can still see anything.