You know that political bumper sticker that goes, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention"? It might as well have applied to the market last year and at the start of this one. Until the recent rally, 2008-09 was a terrible, awful, and downright painful time to be an investor.

But notice how that last sentence started "until the recent rally"? Yes, stocks have rallied hard these past few weeks, proving yet again that market downturns aren't something to panic about, but are rather something to be profited from.

See, during the downturn, good -- even great -- companies were sold down to levels far below their true worth. Had you bought some of those names -- (Nasdaq: AMZN) and Intuitive Surgical (Nasdaq: ISRG) come to mind -- you could be sitting on 50% profits from the bottom.

The good news is: You haven't missed every opportunity. Even after the recent run-up, some outrageous bargains remain.

A shocking and somewhat interesting statistic
But before we get to today's bargain, it's worth taking stock of where we stand. A whopping 88% of all stocks traded on the major U.S. exchanges were down in 2008. That meant 5,369 names in the red, including long-haul outperformers such as 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. And if you're staying out of the market today because of the money you lost last year, do reconsider. While all stocks will be volatile, it's worth your while to stay invested.

But what should you buy today after stocks have risen so far?

One consideration
Take a look at Barrett Business Services. This tiny West Coast professional-employer organization and staffing company has a strong balance sheet, has repurchased shares, and is paying shareholders a nice 3% dividend. Further, while Barrett has stayed depressed due to the jobless nature of the recent recovery, it's positioned to rise rapidly as soon as hiring improves.

Could the stock drop further from here? Of course, but as we've already seen, patience is a virtue.

Regardless of whether the market is rising or falling, it's always a good time to buy excellent companies like Barrett on the cheap. That's what we're all about at Motley Fool 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 Jan. 10, 2008. It has been updated.

Tim Hanson owns shares of Barrett Business Services. Amazon is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Intuitive Surgical is a Rule Breakers choice. The Motley Fool owns shares of Oracle. The Fool's disclosure policy is awesome.