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Where the jobs are: Industries with hiring potential

Jessica Dickler, CNNMoney.com  

December 8, 2008, 10:47 am EST

The economy continues to recede, leaving massive job losses in its wake. But while layoffs are widespread, they are not across the board. Some industries are thriving -- and hiring.

On Friday the Labor Department reported that 533,000 jobs were lost in November, which puts the year-to-date layoff total at a whopping 1.9 million. And with the unemployment rate now at 6.7%, job seekers face the worst job market in 15 years.

But it's not all doom and gloom: A range of industries are posting gains in employment figures. Here's a look at them:

Education - With more people out of work and considering new careers, interest in degree programs, certifications and additional training has never been greater.

"Obviously some people will be out of work and see that as a chance to get additional education," said Dean Baker, director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC, which will provide support - and jobs - to those in the field.

The education industry already added 9,800 jobs in November, the Labor Department said in its monthly report issued last week, and "there's still a wide range of opportunities available," according to Janette Marx, senior vice president of Ajilon Global, professional staffing firm. "It runs the gamut in the education field" beyond teachers and professors, she added.

In addition to greater demand for educators, also lending support to the sector is government financing, according to Baker. "Education will be an area that governments will try to protect because there's a lot of political support," he said.

Health services - With an aging population and greater demand for care, health services is also adding jobs in a down market.

"The healthcare industry continues to be the healthiest sector in the U.S. job market," said Diana Fitting, vice president for staffing company Adecco. "The Baby Boomer generation is aging and it's helping to keep healthcare growing."

Even in the midst of the economic fallout, healthcare employment grew by 34,000 jobs in November. Over the past 12 months, healthcare has added 369,000 jobs, according to the Labor Department.

"Throughout 2008 the industry has continued to add thousands of new jobs each month despite the broader labor market turmoil -- and this is one trend we don't see ending any time soon," Fitting said.

At the Columbia University School of Nursing's Entry to Practice Program, applications are up 50% from last year. Mary Mundinger, dean of the school, credits the sharp uptick to the promise of relatively lucrative job opportunities and flexible schedules in an otherwise dour job market.

Options also abound at pharmaceutical companies, biotech firms and medical-equipment companies, said John Challenger, chief executive of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

In fact, healthcare products and pharmaceuticals were two of only nine industries that announced hiring plans in November, according to Challenger's latest job cut report.

Accounting - It's no surprise that accounting is gaining momentum as well. "This is our busiest time in terms of recruiting because we're gearing up for tax season," said Saran Johnson, human resources manager at Marcum & Kliegman, a New York-based accounting and consulting firm.

Johnson said overall "hiring has remained steady, while other businesses are cutting back or letting go," making accounting even more attractive to job seekers.

Especially in a recession, "accounting is a great field," Challenger said. "Companies are trying to cut costs and not over spend, that puts more importance on good financial controls which requires accountants."

In addition, with financial firms under intense scrutiny and regulation in high demand, there will likely be an increase in auditing firms going forward, added Lee Pinkonitz, associate professor at Georgetown University McDonough School of Business.

"There is always a need for mission-critical roles like accounting," added Kimberly Bishop, vice chairman of Chicago-based executive search firm Slayton Search Partners.

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