When Lynette Rogers, a self-professed workaholic, was laid off from her executive-assistant position in February, she knew only how to "work even harder" to find another job, she says. But when her night job waiting tables three nights a week also ended a month later, Rogers' savings account took a quick hit.
"I couldn't afford to not work. I needed to work," said Rogers, 42. "It wasn't just me and other people looking for work but lots of people I knew personally. We all wanted jobs."
There were the credit card bills, a mortgage on her town-house in Newark, N.J., car payments and food for her golden retriever and newly acquired kitten, Rogers said.
In this recession, Rogers' story is not unique. And even with the number of layoffs by major U.S. companies dropping 21 percent from July to August, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, for many unemployed people the prospect of finding new work is difficult.
All told, 15 million people are unemployed now, and 5 million of them have been out of work for six months or longer, according to the latest payroll data.
That's a lot of competition for any job opening, but the good news is that hiring continues in some pockets of the economy. Job openings exist in fields ranging from government to renewable energy to health care. And in some parts of the country, work is easier to find than others.
Growth coming in government jobs
One area that will see a surge in employment: the federal government. From next month though fall 2012, the government will hire nearly 273,000 workers, according to Partnership for Public Service, a Washington nonprofit. The spike in hiring — a 41 percent increase compared with the past three fiscal years combined — includes everything from nurses in the Defense Department to police officers serving in the Department of Homeland Security.
As baby boomers retire, there's also a demand to fill roles left empty in government agencies. The increased demand for jobs from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Obama administration's attempt to outsource fewer government jobs means there will be more jobs open than ever, said Max Stier, president of Partnership for Public Service.
"There are a lot of folks knocking on the door of government," Stier said. "Now it's a matter of hiring the right people."
In December 2008, 2.8 million people a week visited USAjobs.gov, the official government job site, a jump of more than 500,000 visits per week from the year before, according to Stier's organization.
Stier said people tend to consider government jobs when the economy dips. But one downside is the government's cumbersome hiring process. His advice? Be persistent.
Jobs are available in education
Meanwhile, Indeed.com chief executive Paul Forster said education is a growing area for job seekers to mine. Education job postings are up 25 percent since August 2008 on Indeed.com and job seekers' clicks on jobs as teachers, librarians, special education aids and more have doubled to almost 1.5 million.
When jobs are few and far between, more people seek higher education and additional training to retool their careers, Forster said. At the same time, education is a growing field looking to hire people, he said.
The education field was on staffing company Manpower's list of "10 Hardest Jobs to Fill," based on a survey of more than 39,000 employers in 33 countries and territories in January.
"In the four years we have performed this research, the same positions appear on the list again and again," said Jonas Prising, president of the company's America's division.
Employers are having trouble finding people with the skills, experience and training for the following 10 jobs, according to Manpower's research: engineers, nurses, skilled/manual trades, teachers, sales representatives, technicians, drivers, IT staff, laborers and machinist/machine operators.
Another problem many job seekers don't realize is that companies are often inundated with applicants, said Jason Kerr, founder of United We Work, which runs a free service to help connect job seekers and employers.
Kerr said there are plenty of openings, but few companies are equipped to manage the flood of applicants because they've either cut recruiters or are not developing new plans to find the best candidates. For job hunters, that means they should tailor their resumes and cover letters to each job posting instead of sending out boilerplate applications.
Still, 53 percent of employers surveyed in a new poll said they expect to hire full-time employees in the next year, according to a survey by Robert Half International, a staffing company, and CareerBuilder.com.
Look to technology, service, sales
Technology, customer service and sales jobs are the most likely to grow, according to the telephone survey of 501 hiring managers and 505 workers conducted in May by International Communications Research.
For Marc Teitelbaum, a 32-year-old Manhattan resident, keeping an open mind helped him find a new job. After seven years working as a recruiter at a CPA firm, Teitelbaum quit his job in July to explore different work. He wanted to work in recruiting for a large corporation's human resources department but found it difficult when the economy tanked. Employers would consider him for only entry-level positions at best.
"It was a very, very difficult time," Teitelbaum said. "I was very stressed out."
A friend persuaded him to look into administrative roles and Teitelbaum took a temporary job at New York University's Langone Medical Center in January. By June he landed a full-time job with benefits as an administrative coordinator.
"You have to stay positive no matter how you do it," Teitelbaum said. "There are more opportunities than you realize."
And Lynette Rogers, the former executive assistant? For now, she's collecting unemployment, but she said she has a prospective job lined up as an insurance-claims processor.
"My main goal is to find a job that I can depend on to cover my bases," she said. "Finding that job is the first step, though. It's a difficult one."
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The best and worst places to look for a job: Washington, D.C., and Detroit
If location counts for much in the job hunt, there's not a better place to be than Washington, according to Indeed.com, a Web site that aggregates job listings from many Web sites including CareerBuilder, corporate sites and newspaper classified ads.
Indeed.com ranks the top 50 cities by how many job seekers are available per posting. D.C. leads the rankings with about six job postings per seeker while Detroit's bruised automobile industry contributed to its 18-1 ratio and last-place ranking.
Jacksonville ranks second, with three job postings for each unemployed person. Baltimore; Salt Lake City; New York City; San Jose, Calif.; Hartford, Conn.; Oklahoma City; Austin, Texas; and Boston round out the top 10.
One state not on the list is Iowa, but it's been a center of wind-turbine production, a growing sector of the renewable-energy industry, said Britt Theismann, chief operating officer of the D.C.-based American Wind Energy Association.
About 50 percent of wind-turbine parts are produced domestically, Theismann said. Just four or five years ago, only about a quarter of the parts were made in the United States.
With its large wind source and focus on renewable energy, Iowa is behind only Texas in the amount of electricity produced from wind energy. Companies like Clipper Windpower, Acciona and TPI manufacture parts in Iowa.
Though there were fewer hires this year partly because of the recession, last year the wind-energy industry saw 13,000 jobs created. And Theismann said the industry is expected to grow.