You know that political bumper sticker that goes, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention"? It might as well apply to the market these days. Last year was a terrible, awful, and downright painful year to be an investor.

Good -- even great -- companies were sold down to levels far below their true worth, and investors are losing their savings. And even after the recent run-up, some outrageous bargains remain.

A shocking and somewhat interesting statistic
A whopping 88% of all stocks traded on the major U.S. exchanges were down in 2008. That's 5,369 names in the red. Of those, more than 4,000 dropped 20% or more -- a list that includes Target (NYSE:TGT), Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH), and Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL).

So if you lost money last year, don't feel bad. There was no hiding from this downturn.

But it probably hurts more if you pulled money from the market and missed out on this recovery. The good news is there are still some cheap stocks out there that can get you back on top.

Case in point
Take Barrett Business Services, for example. I found this tiny West Coast professional-employer organization and staffing company during my work as the micro-cap analyst for our Motley Fool Hidden Gems service. At the time, it was trading for a little more than $20 per share. I liked the CEO, I liked the balance sheet, I liked the track record, and I thought it looked cheap. So I told people to buy it.

What happened next was frustrating: It dropped to $17, then to $14, and today sits around $10.

What's your next move?
What's more, Barrett Business Services stock has pretty much stayed put while other less-deserving names such as Ford (NYSE:F) and Sirius XM (NASDAQ:SIRI) have rocketed back up. This presents us with an opportunity.

That's because Barrett still has a strong balance sheet, has repurchased shares, and is paying shareholders a nice 3.1% dividend. Could the stock drop further from here? Of course, but as the employment picture improves, Barrett should rebound strong.

But regardless of whether the market is rising or falling, it's always a good time to buy excellent companies on the cheap. That's what we're all about at Hidden Gems, and even though it's gotten harder to find cheap stocks, we're still building our portfolio of small-cap bargains.

To read about the stocks we're buying today, click here.

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This article was first published on Jan. 10, 2008. It has been updated.

Tim Hanson owns shares of Barrett Business Services. The Fool's disclosure policy is awesome.