Erich Poppitz has updated his statistics on the high energy theory job market to include data from 2009. He counts hirings to tenure-track faculty jobs, using data from the Theoretical Particle Physics Jobs Rumor Mill. For 2009, out of 12 hires listed on the Rumor Mill, he counts 9 as in high-energy theory, 3 as cosmologists. Of the 9 high energy theorists, he counts 7 as in phenomenology, 2 as in string theory. I’m not sure exactly who he is counting as a string theorist, probably Easson (string cosmology) and either Elvang (now working on QFT amplitudes) or Shih (supersymmetry breaking). It appears that it is now essentially impossible to get a permanent job in a physics department if you’re working on the more formal end of string theory (or string phenomenology, for that matter). You pretty much have to work in cosmology or phenomenology to have some sort of job prospects.
The academic job market in general in the US is in a terrible state, and this is reflected in the change from an average of around 20 hires per year in recent years to 9 in 2009. It looks like the situation won’t be any better for 2010. The imbalance between the large number of new PhDs and postdocs, and very few permanent jobs is quite remarkable. According to the postdoc rumor mill, this year already 8 people have accepted postdocs in Princeton, at the university and the IAS, making this small segment of the community large enough to fill almost all the available permanent jobs.
The US economy remains on its knees due to the economic crisis triggered by the blow-up of debt instruments, especially those designed by quants often coming from a physics background. Luckily for physics PhDs who now have no hope for a job in academia, what I hear from my financial industry friends is that, unlike the rest of the economy, their companies are doing quite well, embarking on new rounds of hiring.