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Amid layoff news, many companies are still hiring

Some positions require advanced degrees, but a variety of skill levels are in demand.

By Ron SchererStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / April 7, 2008

Nathan Mishkin was recently hired by Scottrade in Boston.

Joanne Ciccarello - staff

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New York

From his vantage point, David Winslow does not see a recession or rising unemployment rate. Instead, the founder of a software company in Burlington, Vt., sees a hiring opportunity.

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In Farmington Hills, Mich., the gloomy news about more home foreclosures means that GreenPath Debt Solutions is increasing the number of people it hires to counsel consumers.

And, even though some companies are reducing their payrolls, that's not the case for Uncle Sam. One government website lists 49,000 federal job openings alone.

Yes, even while news of rising unemployment and looming recession is on Page 1, other organizations are still hiring. Some are in industries that benefit from a downturn: They help companies save money or find new business opportunities. Some companies are in businesses that are growing regardless of the general economy.

"There are lots of places in the economy where the cylinders are still firing," says John Challenger of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an outplacement firm in Chicago. "Not Wall Street, not housing, and not automotive, but there are many areas that are doing well, are recession-proof or safer havens in a storm for job security," says Mr. Challenger, an expert on employment.

The monthly numbers, which can be grim on a headline basis, don't always tell the full story. For example, last Friday, the Labor Department reported that in March the economy lost 80,000 jobs and the unemployment rate rose to 5.1 percent. But those numbers mean that roughly some 2.1 million new jobs were created, even though 2.2 million jobs were lost.

"Suffice it to say there is a lot of churn in the labor market, and what we see in the net change is a tremendous understatement of what is going on below the surface," says Richard DeKaser, Washington-based chief economist at National City Corp.

Even in the last recession, in 2001, the economy lost roughly 26.1 million jobs but also added 23.2 million jobs, Mr. DeKaser notes.

Some of that churn – in the positive sense – can be seen at Mr. Winslow's software company, Epik One. "I was just watching CNN talk about the 80,000 jobs that were lost in the economy," says Winslow, whose company analyzes the effectiveness of advertising spending on the Internet. "We don't think cutting back is a good idea. We think this is a great time to hit the growth accelerator."

Epik expects to grow from 20 employees at the beginning of the year to 40 by year's end.

Winslow's company is far from unique. Around the nation, a wide range of companies are still hiring. Some of the new jobs are even in areas that are shrinking, such as financial services. Some positions require advanced degrees, but a variety of skill levels are in demand.