Photo credit: Flickr/Brenda Gottsabend

December turned out to be a lousy month for job seekers. According to the latest jobs report, the U.S. created only 74,000 nonfarm payroll jobs last month. That was well below the more than 200,000 jobs that most economists were expecting. That said, there are some bright spots in the economy, which is why job seekers might want to take a closer look at the following five industries.

Retail trade
Employment in retail was the lone bright spot in December as it added 55,000 jobs. That's to be expected as retailers traditionally hire for the holidays. However, retailers did add about 32,000 new jobs each month in 2013, which bodes well for the general economy.


If it's broke fix it, but don't put it out to pasture yet. Photo credit: Flickr/Mike K

One area that showed surprising strength was hiring at motor vehicle and parts dealers. These employers added 7,000 jobs last month. There is an important trend here that's leading to growth at auto part suppliers like O'Reilly Auto Parts (NASDAQ:ORLY). Americans are keeping their cars for longer and because of this it's creating demand for parts as Americans are choosing to fix their cars instead of trading them in for a newer model. That has companies like O'Reilly Auto Parts cashing in and opening new stores as last year alone it again opened around 200 new locations. That trend of opening new stores isn't showing any signs of slowing down, which means that hiring in this sub-sector of retail trade should continue.

Professional services
Another strong sector for employment growth has been in professional and business services. Last month that sector created 19,000 jobs and it has averaged 53,000 new jobs each month. A good portion of these jobs start off as temporary employment as 40,000 temporary service jobs were created last month. Job seekers still need to be open to temporary assignments as that's the best way to get a start in professional services. 

The manufacturing sector also continues to hire as it added 9,000 jobs in September. For the year American manufacturers added 77,000 jobs, though that is about half the jobs created by the sector in 2012. Still, the future looks bright for manufacturing in America as the natural gas boom is fueling $100 billion in new investments to revive the manufacturing industry.

Petrochemical manufacturers like Dow Chemical (NYSE:DOW) are investing billions of dollars to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. Dow Chemical, for example, is currently investing in four new plants in Texas that will open by 2017. The company expects to create more than 600 permanent manufacturing jobs along with 2,000 construction jobs at peak construction. Further, what's unique about manufacturing jobs is the fact that these jobs have a multiplier effect by creating many more support and network jobs. That's why Dow Chemical sees as many as 35,000 new jobs being created as its investments spur grow in other industries and support hiring elsewhere. In fact, statistics show that for every one manufacturing job created in the U.S. as many as five more support and network jobs are added to our economy.


Photo credit: Chesapeake Energy

Oil and gas
America's gas boom has the potential to fuel as many as 5 million new manufacturing related jobs by 2020. However, America's energy industry is also undergoing a hiring boom of its own. The industry has seen employment surge by 41% since the end of the Great Recession. Further, it sees more than a million more future jobs being created by the end of the decade.

That trend was still evident in last month's employment report as petroleum and coal products jobs edged higher by 2,000. Last year job applicants with skills in mechanical engineering, as a service technician, and quality assurance were all in serious demand by the industry. Further, oil and gas employment growth is one of the reasons states like North Dakota and Texas were among the best states for job seekers last year.

Despite its poor performance in 2013, the heath care sector projects to be a key area for future employment growth. That said, December wasn't a great month as employment in the sector actually fell by 6,000 jobs. Meanwhile, only 17,000 new health care jobs were created last year, which is 10,000 less than 2012.

However, most of the fastest growing occupations over the next decade are expected to be health related jobs according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Personal care aids and home heath aids, for example, are expected to see nearly 50% employment growth by the end of the decade. Shifting demographics will play a major role in health care employment over the next decade.

Final thoughts
December's employment number was pretty disappointing for job seekers. However, there are areas of hope with the five industries I've listed all looking like great long-term employment opportunities.

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