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Government. Washington, D.C, is seeing a flurry of hiring as the Obama Administration and new members of Congress staff up, but outside the nation's capital and apart from politics there's also a longer-term job trend operating: nearly half of current federal employees are eligible for retirement. "We have three major government agencies leading the postings," says Skladany. "The Department of Veterans Affairs, the Transportation Security Administration, and the Internal Revenue Service."

Information technology. IT is a category that seems to bloom in any economic weather, with opportunities for people of varying skill levels. Retailers, banks, utilities, schools, hospitals—any enterprise with records to keep—need computing power. As U.S. News & World Report points out, "Equipment technicians install, train, calibrate, and maintain a cadre of fast-evolving medical equipment … and you can be an everyday hospital hero after only a two-year associate's degree." Computer systems analysts, network systems and data communications analysts, and network and computer systems administrators are the top three occupations in Shatkin's 150 Best Recession-Proof Jobs.

To uncover opportunities, experts recommend Web sites such as CareerBuilder.com, Monster.com, and Manpower.com—and, for people over 50, RetirementJobs.com, Workforce50.com, RetiredBrains.com, Seniors4Hire.org, and RetireeWorkforce.com. Even better, "seek out job boards that are meant specifically for your industry," says Manpower's Melanie Holmes. Among these are JobsintheMoney.com and eFinancialCareers.com for financial positions; Net-Temps.com and EmploymentGuide.com for office work; and BioSpace.com, MedReps.com, and HealthcareJobs.org for health-related fields.

For job-hunters over age 50, Skladany finds signs that age discrimination is disappearing. "A significant number of major companies have now started treating age as a diversity issue," just like race and gender, he says. Within the past year, he's noticed companies saying, "We've got to start targeting older, mature, experienced workers for recruitment, retention, and promotion." However, Sperling warns that this advantage comes at a price: because older workers have some savings and no kids to support, he says, "managers think they can accept lower pay."

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