Bardiac very reasonably asks whether the job situation is worse now than it used to be.
I don't have the answer, but the MLA does:
This report has tables where numbers and percentages of jobs are broken down in most ways--by rank, by region, by month advertised, and so on.
Among the conclusions of that report are that things are (slightly) looking up from the 2008-9 low and that more jobs are being offered after the big October issue.
What about cohorts of previous Ph.D. graduates seeking jobs? Here's some older information from 2001-2002, from here: http://www.mla.org/professionalization
The Academic Job Search in English: A Statistical Representation for 2001-02
|New cohort of PhD recipients|
|Less new cohort members who accept postdoc positions|
|Less new cohort members who do not pursue academic positions|
|Total of new cohort who seek positions in four-year institutions|
|Previous cohorts of PhD recipients|
|From 1 year prior|
|From 2 years prior|
|From 3 years prior|
|From 4 years prior|
|From 5 years prior or earlier|
|Total of previous cohorts who seek positions in four-year institutions|
|Total number of job seekers|
Also, here's a comment that I left over at Historiann's post about the job market, addressing the issue of why search committees don't contact people at every step of the process, which would be more humane:
The thing is, no one on search committees behaves maliciously, I don't think, and certainly not in the ways that have been charged. We have a detailed and much-documented process to follow, and HR is right there at our shoulders, seeing to it that we follow it every step of the way. It's ultimately to ensure fairness.
Why don't search committees notify those who didn't make the short list? Let's say you have 350 applicants, a long short list of 40-50 for additional materials, and a maximum of 12-20 you can interview either at the convention or on Skype. What may seem humane--that is, notifying the 300--is, if seen through institutional eyes, 300 lawsuits waiting to happen, when even one would be too many. And what if there was a flaw in the selection metrics somewhere and all the files or some subset of them need to be re-reviewed after consultation with HR?
As Bardiac says, it may be that the search committee goes back to the longer short list or even the whole list, especially if it's a hard-to-fill specialty. In other words, it's not really over until it's over.The reality is that the job isn't filled until an offer is made and accepted.
That said, we need to keep trying to improve the process and do everything we can to make it humane and responsive to candidates.