Factory workers, high-tech may lag

Health care survived the recession

By Leigh Strope

Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- In the midst of the economic upturn, job seekers might want to avoid such fields as telecommunications, general manufacturing and high tech, which may take longer to recover, economists predicted.

Manufacturers were suffering long before the country fell into recession, and factories have cut 1.31 million jobs in the past year. Analysts say the sector is showing signs of recovery, but they doubt that the lost jobs will be replaced anytime soon.


In high-tech, economists predict a slow comeback, with computer services picking up in the fall and possibly computer hardware manufacturing by year's end. Telecommunications shows no sign of recovery, with 60,691 job cuts announced in the first two months of the year, or 42 percent more than a year ago.

As the economy strengthens, economists think jobs will be added in retail, services and government, areas that already showed growth in February.

Jobs in health care have survived the recession, and demand is expected to get stronger as the population ages. About 126,000 nursing vacancies already exist at hospitals, a figure the industry expects to balloon to 400,000 by 2020. Demand also will grow at pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology companies, hospitals, doctors' offices and clinics.

"Nurses and pharmacists are in very short supply," said John Challenger, chief executive of job placement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas. "Organizations can't find the people they're looking for, and they're hiring every qualified person they can find."

Government, especially local, and defense and domestic security areas also should see growth. For example, the new Transportation Security Administration is hiring 30,000 federal employees to take over passenger screening at the nation's airports.

Education is another field that will be adding jobs at all levels. Part of the growth is because of the poor economy. "A weak economy has induced people to stay in school or go back to school," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at

Consumers continued to spend throughout the recession, and many discount retailers have benefited, Zandi said. Stores such as Wal-Mart and Target will keep adding jobs, while some department stores could have trouble recovering, he said.

A boom in housing has kept consumers spending on items for their homes. Home furnishings retailer Pier 1 Imports is adding 100 new stores and experiencing growth at all levels, including sales, distribution centers and at corporate headquarters, said John Hughes, staffing director for the Fort Worth, Texas-based company.


"There's a great deal of expansion going on for us, and we're trying to fill jobs," he said. The company even has hired recruiters to help with hiring.

Amusement and recreation companies, hotels and airlines also are starting to rebound. Southwest Airlines will expand this year, although at a more measured rate than in the past. It plans to hire about 4,000 employees, compared with 6,000 in 2001.

Northwest Airlines plans to recall about 500 ground workers, mostly customer service agents and equipment service workers, who were laid off when the airline reduced its schedule after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

United Airlines is recalling 1,300 employees it laid off last fall and hiring an additional 900 in major markets to help meet its expanded summer schedule.

Amusement parks, including Disney World, SeaWorld and Universal Studios, have begun hiring seasonal workers to prepare for spring and summer.

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