For those who have gotten education and training in "hot job" categories such as health care, finance, technology and management, there are plenty of jobs available, recruiters and university career counselors say.
"The economy is slower, but there are hot areas - definitely," said Russell Boisjoly, dean of the College of Business & Management at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. He said the growing health-care sector is a solid prospect.
More than 598,000 jobs were cut by employers in January. Many construction firms, mortgage companies, financial institutions and other businesses tied to the housing slump and credit crisis have slashed payrolls.
However, all over the country jobs are being added in the education, health-care, government and hospitality sectors. Arilea Fenty graduated in May from Florida Atlantic University. She's looking for a entry job in public relations. Even with her multimedia background and a senior internship, Fenty is having trouble.
"It's a bit of a challenge," she said, explaining that employers are looking for people with three to five years' experience.
Boisjoly said: "If you have no experience, you're at a big disadvantage. A lot of our students are doing projects for companies. That's a big leg up. You move to the front of the line."
Job candidates who work in troubled industries such as mortgage processing, construction or real estate may need to change careers or apply their skills to a new industry.
"You have to take inventory of your skills and education," said Vernon Bailey, who teaches classes on finding a job to professionals at a Florida employment agency.
Patricia Jones, 54, was recently laid off from a credit union, where she worked as a loan processor for more than 20 years. She worked for other financial institutions in South Florida for six years before that.
Jones, who lives with her 9-year-old daughter in Miramar, is looking to work in another field, perhaps teaching or as a financial analyst. "Now I have to start all over again," she said.
Skills are often transferable, experts say. People who are project managers and operations managers, or who work in finance, sales, marketing and business consulting, often can find jobs in other industries.
Despite financial upheaval making national headlines, finance is still a good place to be.
Starting salaries for accounting and finance professionals are increasing, according to Robert Half International, a staffing firm with offices all over the country.
"There's a need for public accountants, cost accountants, financial analysts, CPAs and internal auditors," said Ashley Orfin, a manager with Robert Half. She said those with industry credentials, such as a certified public accountant or payroll specialist, are always sought-after finance professionals.
Multiple skills are needed in today's job market, especially in technology, recruiters say.
Companies have been steadily hiring technology professionals who have experience integrating company information systems to get the best performance. Job seekers who are bilingual are attractive to multinational companies. "Soft" skills, such as effective communication, also are important.
To better position themselves in the job market, workers need to take on responsibilities beyond their job descriptions, said Brian Coffey, managing director with Technisource in South Florida, a subsidiary of Fort Lauderdale-based Spherion Corp.
"Volunteer for a project or get involved in business networking groups," he said. "Candidates have to invest in their own careers."
Yasel Cruz, 25, attended two professional engineering conferences last fall before he graduated in December from Florida International University. They led to job interviews and he accepted a job as a systems analyst, developing Web and desktop applications, for Scripps Florida, a biotech research institution.
Overall, health care is one of the fastest-growing industries. Home health aides, medical assistants, physician's assistants, and personal and home care aides are in critical need.That's on top of the nation's nursing shortage.
Julie Iglesias, president of the South Florida Association of Healthcare Recruiters, said there also is a strong demand for the "physician's assistant," a certified professional who acts as the extension of a doctor.
Starting salary for a physician's assistant graduate is around $75,000. Physician's assistants take two-to three-year degree programs and have to pass medical board examinations.Enrique Roig, 35, was Mercy Hospital's first physician's assistant. Now he's helping the orthopedic institute find more people who want to play that role.
"We do a little bit of everything," he said. "It's a niche."
Marcia Heroux Pounds can be reached at email@example.com or 561-243-6650.