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Education, Health Care, I.T. Still Hiring

With all of the bad news about employment, it is nice to see that some sectors of the economy are still hiring, particularly those that hire scientists and engineers. Last week, Jack Chang of McClatchy Newspapers highlighted three sectors that have added jobs in the past few months, while others have been cutting: education, health care, and information technology (I.T.).

Chang notes that from July to November 2008, while the entire non-farm workforce lost 1.4 million jobs, health care and education organizations added 140,000. Not all of these jobs, are high-paying professional scientific and engineering positions–very likely, only a small minority are good technical jobs–but it’s good to know there are sectors of the economy that are still hiring people with technical training.

Chang talked to Gary Burtless, a labor economist at the Brooking Institution, who says that governments at every level consider the  education and health care sectors–vital services supported largely by public funds–worth saving. Educational institutions also absorb many laid-off workers who use the opportunity to retrain for other kinds of work–creating jobs, if only in the short term, for people capable of teaching those skills.

In the I.T. sector, Chang relies on more anecdotal evidence and less on statistics. He talked to Trevor Loy, a venture capitalist in Santa Fe, New Mexico, who says many of the technology companies he finances are hiring. Loy gives as examples companies that develop advanced water purification systems and a new generation of survey cameras used in construction. Loy says these companies plan to continue hiring through 2009.

Barry Lawrence, a spokesperson for the employment search site Jobfox, tells Chang that I.T. plays such a fundamental role in businesses that employers want to avoid losing their I.T. staff. Jobfox, Lawrence says, sampled 4,000 of its job listings from 2,000 employers over a 4-month period ending on 28 October. Software designers and developers were fifth on the list of workers most in demand. University faculty ranked 22; sales representatives ranked  no. 1.

Lawrence believes Barack Obama’s much-discussed economic stimulus package will spur many more technical employment opportunities. If the package gets enacted, Jobfox anticipates more staffing needs in civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, as well as in construction management.

Emily Mendell, vice president of strategic affairs for the National Venture Capital Association, tells Chang that alternative energy is another field that should benefit from the Obama presidency, and thus should serve as a source of new jobs. Financier Loy adds that developers of innovations that can save energy for businesses are doing well right now, including one firm in his financial portfolio that makes illuminated display signs requiring much less energy and maintenance than current illuminated displays.