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Who's Insulated From The Recession?

The Times' Lou Uchitelle has an interesting piece today about how certain high-skilled workers are enjoying surprisingly good job prospects these days:

But unnoticed in the government’s standard employment data, employers are begging for qualified applicants for certain occupations, even in hard times. Most of the jobs involve skills that take years to attain. 

Welder is one, employers report. Critical care nurse is another. Electrical lineman is yet another, particularly those skilled in stringing high-voltage wires across the landscape. Special education teachers are in demand. So are geotechnical engineers, trained in geology as well as engineering, a combination sought for oil field work. Respiratory therapists, who help the ill breathe, are not easily found, at least not by the Permanente Medical Group, which employs more than 30,000 health professionals. And with infrastructure spending now on the rise, civil engineers are in demand to supervise the work.

I guess my only question is whether this is a function of being skilled per se, or working in one of the few occupations--health care, education, energy--that are growing despite the broader economic downturn (or, in the case of civil engineers, because of the response to the downturn). After all, I'm sure there are some incredibly skilled automotive engineers, auto assembly-line workers, and residential construction contractors--to say nothing of bankers and journalists--who are facing a much softer labor market today than a few years ago.

--Noam Scheiber