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Jobs in Demand

Survey suggests employment outlook is brightest in 6 years

Hairdresser trimming customer's hair, Jobs in Demand for 2014

Job hunting in the new year? Learn which jobs are in high-demand and the industries hiring. — Helen King/Corbis

En español | While it might not quite be time to pop the bubbly, there's reason to believe that hiring in several key industries will be on the upswing in the first few months of the new year.

The latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey indicates growing optimism among U.S. employers. Of more than 18,000 surveyed, 17 percent anticipated raising staff levels in their first-quarter hiring — the best outlook in six years.

This adds to other upbeat numbers. Last month, the U.S. economy added more than 200,000 jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates. The unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level since 2008, to 7 percent.

Overall, things were brighter for workers of all ages in November than in quite some time, says Sara Rix, senior strategic policy adviser at the AARP Public Policy Institute.

Looking at older workers, the November unemployment rate for those age 55 and older fell to 4.9 percent, down sharply from October's 5.4 percent. The rate fell both for older women and older men.

"Fewer workers were unemployed, employed part time for economic reasons or discouraged about their job prospects," Rix says.

While these numbers may be encouraging, workers who remain without jobs continued to struggle, as the average duration of unemployment rose once again. The November survey found that jobless people age 55 and over had been that way for an average of 50.7 weeks, up slightly from 49.7 weeks in October.

That said, don't give up. If you're job hunting, some industries are reporting rising numbers of vacancies. Below are five sectors where you can expect to find openings in the next few months.

Pay will vary depending on the employer, your experience and where you live. The jobs may have flexible hours and be full or part time. Some may require you to go back to school for specific training. But in others, you may be able to repurpose skills you already have.

If you're ready to jump-start your search, be sure to review my list of job hunting mistakes to avoid and ways to improve your LinkedIn profile.

1. Health Care

The aging population and longer life expectancies are spurring a wide range of health care-related jobs. In fact, for the period 2012 to 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that industries related to health care will generate the most new jobs, 5 million. New ones are cropping up all the time for people in their 50s, 60s and 70s that cater to people in their 80s and 90s.

You'll do well to think broadly about what a health care job is, and how your talents and skills might be redeployed to take advantage of the opportunities. The jobs can run the gamut from repairing gurneys and wheelchairs at a hospital to transcribing medical records at a physician's office.

Look for jobs at public and private hospitals, nursing and residential care facilities, and individual and family services. Look too at health-related nonprofits and environmental and animal welfare groups — these groups have been hiring workers to provide services, run programs and raise money.

See also: Make money using your natural talents

Consider too whether you should hang a shingle for your own self-employed enterprise in the health field.

Some specific jobs to explore in the sector include dietitian and nutritionist, patient advocate, personal and home health care aide, massage therapist, physical therapist (and aide/assistant), registered nurse or licensed/practical nurse, nurse practitioner, senior fitness trainer, skin care specialist, home modification professional, medical equipment maintenance and repair, and medical records administrator.

2. Financial

As boomers slide into their retirement years, they are increasingly seeking help with managing their money, whether it's bill paying or estate planning or choosing the right insurance policy. There is growing awareness that people need to have financial plans in place to help avoid outliving their savings.

Moreover, as traditional employer-provided pensions have been replaced by do-it-yourself 401(k) and similar plans, demand is on the upswing among all age groups for experts who can make sense of retirement investment. Little wonder that the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job growth in the financial activities arena to bump up about 10 percent in the next decade.

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Jobs to explore in the sector include accountant, personal financial adviser and planner, insurance broker, retirement coach, bookkeeper, financial manager and tax preparer.

3. Leisure and hospitality

Given the snowballing number of retiring workers, there has been an upsurge in demand for travel and leisure activities. So it's not surprising that the Manpower survey found that 23 percent of employers in this field were planning to take on more workers in the first quarter of 2014. The Bureau of Labor Statistics sees long-term growth too: about 1.3 million new jobs between 2012 and 2022.

Jobs to explore in the sector include barber and hairdresser, cosmetologist, casino worker, caterer, chef, cruise line worker, landscaper, pet sitter/walker, recreation worker, resort worker, tour worker, bartender, waiter and hotel shuttle van driver.

4. Retail

It's not exactly shop 'til you drop, but most experts predict that the rising population will translate to a greater demand for workers in the retail trade. Manpower, for instance, says that 19 percent of retail employers plan to add jobs in the first quarter of the new year.

Jobs to explore in the sector include cashier, customer service representative, package preparer, e-commerce analyst, direct salesperson, retail salesperson, sales representative and product demonstrator.

5. Professional and business services

Jobs in this sector are forecast to grow by nearly 20 percent — roughly 3.5 million new jobs between 2012 and 2022. In some subcategories, the growth will likely be even bigger: Employment in computer and mathematical occupations, for example, is expected to rise 18 percent, spurred by growing calls for network and mobile technologies.

In this field, you'll need to cast a wide net. Seek out openings at small businesses and big corporations. Sixteen percent of employers in this sector plan to expand hiring in the first few months of 2014, according to Manpower.

There's a variety of positions that keep the wheels of business greased, and, as more seniors go the entrepreneur route, there's a growing need for expert advice and services for start-ups, especially on a contract and part-time basis, according to Elizabeth Isele, cofounder of the nonprofit Senior Entrepreneurship Works.

Jobs to explore in this sector include grant/proposal writer, green-business consultant; human resource specialist; information security analyst; database administrator; management consultant; market research; meeting, convention and event planner; translator/interpreter. Spanish is the most in-demand language, but other languages are increasingly needed, such as Arabic. Specializing in translating in a particular field such as the judicial system or health care and knowing its special terminology will increase your job opportunities.

Editor's note:  The figure for health care jobs was incorrectly stated as 15.6 million. The correct figure is 5 million.

Kerry Hannon, AARP jobs expert, is a career transition expert and an award-winning author. Her latest book is Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … and Pays the Bills.

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