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Where the jobs are: this economy is both the best and the worst of times. But while corporate downsizing is making for a bleak future, there are still career opportunities to be found. (Career Overview).

CAN YOU HANDLE THE TRUTH? IN THIS ECONOMY, THERE ARE several truths. The truth is that we are in a recession. The truth is that you will have to work harder than ever to keep your current job--or get another if you are caught in the cross fire. Here's another truth: More than 350,000 workers lost their jobs in mass layoffs last year. At least 55,000 of those losses were directly or indirectly related to the events of September 11. That figure helped push the number of unemployed Americans to 7.7 million--a 2.2 million increase in just one month. The current 5.7% unemployment rate is the highest it has been in five years.

"Things can always get worse," warns Gwendolyn Catchings-Castello, president and founder of Guiding Talent To Greatness, an executive coaching firm in Los Angeles. But she does see "enormous growth potential" in several sectors, particularly technology, healthcare, and research.

Adds Ollie Stevenson, author of Career Success Is Color-Blind: Overcoming Prejudice and Eliminating Barriers in the Workplace (JIST Works, $16.95). "Any restructuring, whether it's a reorganization, merger, or downsizing, will result in a wealth of new opportunities. In spite of the potential offered by such changes, the majority of people within an organization may focus on resistance and occupy themselves with pointless speculation, gossip, fear, and work-avoidance." But with the Bureau of Labor Statistics ( predicting the creation of more than 5.8 million new jobs by 2008, there is no place for the negativity. Some of the fastest-growing industries and occupations with the greatest job growth, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), include the following:

* Technology (analysts, engineers, database administrators); the demand for computer technologists and data-processing services is also expected to increase 117% by 2008, infusing 1.9 million jobs into the pool.

* Health (residential caregivers, registered nurses, and researchers); residential care positions, for example, will leap 57% and provide another 424,000 jobs.

* Office workers (administrative support); personnel services will expand 43% and place 1.4 million people in administrative positions.

* Education (high school and college-level educators); the number is expected to increase by 36%, due, in part, to retiring educators and a growing student population.

* Security (guards, private detectives, and investigators); airports, real estate firms, and hospitals will drive the more than 36% increase in security services.

* Securities and commodities (financial services); the BLS projects a 41% increase, adding 255,000 new jobs to the financial industry.

Technology Returns

Salary: $45,200-$70,800 (starting salaries for electrical and electronics engineers)

Education required: Bachelor's, at minimum, in computer science or engineering. Master's and Ph.D.s command higher-starting salaries.


Because of the United States war on terrorism, there will be an increase in the need for technology experts, particularly engineers, systems analysts, and scientists. In fact, a good portion of the Department of Defense's budget, roughly 10% of the $25 billion allotted, is expected to be spent on counterterrorism efforts, which would also include security technology and software development.

Likewise, corporations will need to protect their records, information systems, and intellectual properties with advanced hardware and software applications. Tools such as antivirus programs and security software, such as firewalls, will be in high demand as the adoption of handheld hardware and home networking is expected to rise.

"Government and small business contracts will definitely increase," says Vincent L. Lewis, an information technology consultant in Washington, D.C. "There will be a strong demand for individuals with math and science backgrounds."

Currently, more than 1.5 million people work as systems analysts, engineers, and scientists; and the BLS projects a 36% (or greater) increase in such jobs over the next six years.

Positions such as computer programmer, systems analyst and database administrator already have more demand than bodies, according to the BLS and The Hudson Institute's demographic department. For example, Lucent Technologies recently announced plans to cut 10,000 workers in areas that include marketing and human resources, while simultaneously posting hundreds of new jobs for data networkers and engineers.

Health Concerns

Salary: For registered nurses (median income for 1998 was $40,690); for home healthcare workers ($27,600 median income); for chemists and researchers (salaries range from $46,900-$67,300)

Education required: For registered nurses and home healthcare workers (associate's degrees); for chemists and researchers (bachelor's, at minimum)


As with technology, the demand for professionals in the healthcare and research fields is expected to increase exponentially. The nursing shortage, deemed a "crisis" by the medical community, offers an unparalleled opportunity for African Americans to earn a living in healthcare. According to the BLS, nursing (the largest healthcare occupation with more than 2 million workers), will have the largest numbers of new jobs of those occupations projected to see growth.

One factor that will contribute to this growth: age. As the older population increases, they will, more likely need medical care than younger people; and older, more experienced nurses are retiring, further contributing to the crisis.

Employment in home healthcare is also expected to increase, spurring the need for caregivers (nurse's aides, home-health aides, physician's assistants) in residential care facilities and hospitals. Add to this the pressure on hospitals to release patients sooner--and you have a boon to the $123 billion long-term care industry.

A National Alliance for Caregiving in Bethesda, Maryland, and an AARP study finds that 22 million people in this country now care for family members--a job for which they are ill prepared. In an AARP survey, 39% of African Americans who cared for older family members, were stressed by issues related to caregiving responsibilities.

Besides the older population, baby boomers--all 76 million of them--also have a say in the healthcare field. They've made it clear that they want to live longer, healthier lives, and they're willing to pay good money for it, hence the need for scientists in the areas of pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. Pharmaceutical companies spend at least $116 billion annually researching, testing, and developing drugs to treat and cure diseases. Careers in the research and testing arms of drug companies are ripe for entry. Additionally, stronger competition among drug companies will contribute to the need for innovative scientists and researchers.

Temporary Solutions

Salary: Secretaries averaged $25,500 a year in 1998; the median salary for legal secretaries was $30,050

Education required: High school diploma with basic office skills


Despite the trend toward downsizing, the need for temporary and outsourced work will grow. A quarter of the workforce is already composed of "free agents" or temporary or contract workers, reports Kelly Services, a Colorado Springs, Colorado, placement agency. "That figure will undoubtedly increase. Downsizing only cuts costs, not work; so, a wise option is to hire temps to complete projects," says Victoria Lowe, president and CEO of Alert Staffing in Culver City, California (No. 13 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $204.2 million in sales).

"Temps are not just secretaries. Managers, credit analysts, and paralegals all temp to test out a new industry without making a formal commitment," explains Patricia Troy, president and CEO of Advanced Staffing Inc. in New Castle, Delaware. "Besides, after a recession the staffing industry is one of the first to rebound from any slowdown we may encounter," she adds.

For those thinking about changing careers, temping might be the answer. "Even if it is outside of your current field, the skills are transferable," adds Troy.

Safety Concerns

Salary: Guards ($16,240 median salary); investigators ($49,300 annually)

Education required: There are no formal education requirements for most guards, private detective and investigative jobs, although many private detectives have a college degree.

Security encompasses many fields, from guard and investigative services to technology to biotech. Employment of guards is expected to increase 21% to 35% by 2008. Those with advanced training and knowledge of technology will be in high demand from security firms, corporations, and government agencies, in light of the increased emphasis on antiterrorism and corporate data security.

"[As for training], the government is aging, so it is bound to start hiring people. That will be an excellent arena in which to start receiving essential training that [you] can take into the private sector," says Lewis.

Managing Your Money

Salary: Median annual earnings of financial managers ($55,070); security brokers and dealers ($95,100)

Education required: A bachelor's degree in finance, accounting, or related field is the minimum academic preparation, but many employers increasingly seek graduates with a master's degree and a strong analytical background.


Following the September 11 terrorist attacks, American investors pulled $29.5 billion out of the stock market, reports the Investment Company Institute in Washington, D.C. Despite that, brokers and financial planners will be in demand, according to BLS statistics.

"We need to soothe investors' nerves," explains Joyce Muse, a certified financial planner and broker in Oakland, California. "One way we're succeeding is by making attractive portfolios that offer a more defensive position; we definitely do not want our investors to take their money out of the market and hide it under a mattress."

Although the industry has taken a hit due to the economic downturn as well as the events of September 11 (particularly in New York City), Wall Street is calling up another quarter million brokers who are currently studying to pass the General Securities Registered Representative Examination (Series 7 exam), the standard test that licenses stocks and commodities brokers.

While there are several factors affecting the securities industry (competitive climate, large firms downsizing, increased dependence of consumers to buy and sell stocks over the Internet), a renewed increase in investing will spur employment in the industry. Why? Consumers will still need the advice and service of qualified professionals, particularly when the economy seems bleak.

Additionally, although many consumers and businesses have become more savvy about their finances, investment products have become more plentiful and more complex. Add in the increased interest in global markets and the introduction to products that aren't available online and you have a field that should expand significantly beyond the current 303,000 employment estimate from the BLS.


So what is the truth? In this economy, there are several truths. The truth is that although the economy appears bleak, and jobs seem scarce, over the next six years, 5.8 million employment opportunities will be open in several fields nationwide. The truth is, this is as good a time as any to start preparing yourself for those jobs. Do you have the right skills, education, or the talent? Are you in the right field? Or are you thinking about making the switch? Whether or not you see a silver lining amid the dark clouds of a depressed economy will depend on several factors: how prepared you are to take on new opportunities; where these opportunities are; and how long this recession lasts.

A Not-So-Pretty Economic Picture

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics is predicting job growth in key occupations by 2008, the economic landscape for 2002 is a depressing picture. The Federal Reserve's "Beige Book" report from 12 regional banks shows slow to no growth--and, in some cases, negative growth in all districts.

12th District San Francisco

Reports a 20% drop in starting salaries for high-tech workers.

9th District Minneapolis

Modest wage increases reported.

10th District Kansas City

A nursing shortage persists.

11th District Dallas

Layoffs and early retirement incentives in the telecommunications industry.

4th District Cleveland

Construction firms have seen an increase in the number of projects scheduled for the spring.

8th District St. Louis

Long distance, wireless, and data services are posting growth, but communications companies are decreasing capital spending.

7th District Chicago

Joblessness continues to rise and uneployment insurance claims remain.

6th District Atlanta

Lookheed Martin's Marietta, Georgia, facility will benefit from the Defense Department's award of the contract to build the Joint Strike Fighter plane. Hospitals are aggressively hiring.

1st District Boston

Some growth in customer service, pharmaceuticals, biosciences, and securities.

2nd District New York

Financial and business services are hiring selectively.

3rd District Philadelphia

No reported job increases. But no further layoffs projected.

5th District Richmond

Demand for workers in the biotech, financial, and e-commerce industries should increase.
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Article Details
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Author:Donaldson, Sonya A.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Industry Overview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2002
Previous Article:Navigating rough waters: steering their companies through an economic storm, America's leading black executives are facing their boldest challenges...
Next Article:Career guide for a lifetime. (Career Management).

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