Each year, graduate students entering the academic job market worry that they
will suffer due to uncontrollable macroeconomic risk. Given the importance
of general human capital and the relative ease of publicly observing
productivity in academia, one might expect unlucky graduating cohorts'
long-term labor market outcomes to resemble those who graduate in favorable
climates. In this paper, I analyze the relationship between macroeconomic
conditions at graduation, initial job placement, and long-term outcomes for
PhD economists from seven programs. Using macro conditions as an instrument
for initial placement, I show a causal effect of quality and type of initial
job on long-term job characteristics. I also show that better initial placement
increases research productivity, which helps to limit the set of economic models
that can explain the effect of initial placement on long-term jobs.