WASHINGTON - The U.S. economy is sinking deeper into recession, and companies are shedding thousands of jobs, but the technology firms that Santa Fe, N.M., venture capitalist Trevor Loy invests in haven't stopped growing.
The firms that Loy is funding are developing products such as state-of-the-art water-purification systems and the next generation of surveying cameras for construction sites. They are adding to their payrolls and plan more hiring next year.
These companies are part of a select swath of the U.S. economy that has been protected - so far - from the bad economic weather. They are schools, health-care providers, information-technology firms, green-energy start-ups, and other companies that, while not thriving, are at least hiring.
"The end markets they serve are not shrinking," Loy said of some of the two dozen companies he funds.
"The world's need for clean water, for clean energy, especially if there's infrastructure stimulus, will be growing, and companies working with new technology can act more quickly than traditional companies can." Such start-ups also generally do not depend on the short-term financing that large companies need, which means they have not been hit as hard by the shriveling of credit markets, he said.
The education and health-care industries added about 140,000 jobs to their payrolls from July through November, while the natural resource and mining sector added 23,000 jobs in the same period, according to U.S. Labor Department data, which are adjusted for seasonal hiring patterns.
That contrasts with a total loss of nearly 1.4 million nonfarm-sector jobs during those five months, with the heaviest losses hitting professional and business services, which include accounting, temporary-employment agencies, and waste management.
Education and health services historically have been resistant to economic downturns because they often are the last items on local government and household budgets to be axed, said Gary Burtless, a labor economist at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
Demand for education also is growing as unemployed workers go back to school to beef up their resumes, Burtless said.
"State and local governments just think it's unavoidable to pay these education expenses," Burtless said. "And you're not going to postpone your surgery just because the economy's bad." Also growing are jobs that help companies ramp up sales or cut employees to survive the bad economic times.
For example, sales representatives, followed by account/customer-support professionals, topped the list of 25 most recession-proof jobs compiled by the online employment search site Jobfox.
The big hope is that the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama makes good on its promises to launch a multibillion-dollar economic-stimulus package and a financial-regulation plan. Both will spur new employment. If that happens, Jobfox predicts big staffing boosts in civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, construction management and compliance accounting.