Even in recession, some companies are hiring

Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Paul Sakuma ~ Associated Press
Job information is posted Wednesday at JobTrain employment office in Menlo Park, Calif. The recession has so far eliminated 4.4 million jobs. But that's only a net total. The economy not only sheds many jobs during a recession; it also creates others.

Help wanted: pharmacists, engineers and nurses. Believe it or not, even some banks are hiring, at least for their technology teams.

While the recession has claimed 4.4 million jobs, the economy has created others, many of them for highly trained and specialized professionals. More than 2 million jobs openings now exist across a range of industries, according to government data.

Job seekers beware, though. An average of nearly five people are competing for each opening. That's up from a ratio of less than 2-to-1 in December 2007, when the recession was just starting and nearly 4 million openings existed.

Broadly, jobs are being added in education, health care and the federal government, the Labor Department said.

But beyond those areas, jobs can be found in a variety of sectors. Some places that are hiring, such as companies that make nuclear power equipment, haven't been hit that hard by the recession. Others, such as discount retailers, are actually benefiting from the downturn as shoppers become thriftier.

Mortgage servicing companies -- those that collect payments for the lenders that originated them -- are also hiring as lower mortgage rates fuel mortgage refinance applications.

Marina Walsh, associate vice president of industry analysis at the Mortgage Bankers Association, said servicers "are just scrambling for workers."

The nuclear power industry, meanwhile, doesn't seem to have noticed the economic downturn. It is adding thousands of jobs as it gears up to build as many as 26 new nuclear power plants in the next decade.

Corporations such as Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse Electric Company and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy are hiring engineers and adding other workers as they expand manufacturing facilities, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute, a trade group.

Engineers of all kinds are in demand and are facing a rock-bottom jobless rate of about 3 percent, according to Gilliam of the Adecco Group North America. That compares with a nationwide unemployment rate of 8.1 percent last month.

Adecco is trying to fill about 1,200 engineering jobs, Gilliam said. They include product engineers who test the next generation of computer equipment, he said.

Other bright spots in an otherwise dismal labor market:

n Pharmacists: An aging U.S. population is taking more medicine and pharmacists are taking more time helping patients with chronic diseases manage their dosages, said Douglas Scheckelhoff of the American Society of Health System Pharmacists.

There is a 6 percent shortage of hospital pharmacists, Scheckelhoff said.

Many drug stores are also looking to hire new pharmacists and pharmacist technicians, he said.

n Nurses: Hospitals also need more nurses to care for the aging population and to replace those nearing retirement, said Cheryl Peterson, director of nursing practice and policy at the American Nurses Association. Hospitals added 7,000 jobs of all kinds last month, even as the economy overall shed 651,000 jobs.

* Veterinarians: "There's a tremendous demand" for veterinarians, particularly to serve livestock growers in rural areas, said Dr. Ron DeHaven, chief executive officer of the American Veterinary Medical Association. The government is also short of veterinarians needed to inspect slaughterhouses and undertake other food safety measures, he said. The Labor Department projects that the number of veterinary jobs will grow by 35 percent by 2016, DeHaven said.

Some companies are benefiting from the recession as shoppers shift to lower-priced stores. The economy has lost more than 600,000 retail jobs since the slowdown began, but discount retailer Family Dollar Stores Inc. is hiring.

The company plans to hire new workers for 200 stores it expects to open this year, said spokesman Josh Braverman, and will also add employees at some of its nine distribution centers. Family Dollar saw its sales at stores open at least a year rise by 6.4 percent in the three months ending in February.

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