After Grim Employment Report, Obama Stresses Green Jobs

Hours after disappointing jobs report, president touts green job creation.

July 1, 2009, 4:46 PM

July 2, 2009— -- While the nation continues to lose hundreds of thousands of jobs each month, job creation through a "new clean energy economy" will bolster the country's economic recovery and its "long-term prosperity," President Obama said today.

Speaking after a meeting with energy company CEOs, Obama said "new ways of producing and saving and distributing energy offer a unique opportunity to create millions of jobs for the American people."

"Even as we face tough economic times, even as we continue to lose jobs, the CEOs here told me that they're looking to hire new people; in some cases to double or even triple in size over the next few years," he said.

The president spoke just hours after the U.S. Department of Labor confirmed that June was yet another tough month for America's workers. The department reported this morning that employers shed another 467,000 jobs last month -- more than analysts expected -- and that the unemployment rate rose to 9.5 percent, the highest since August, 1983.

Since the recession began in late 2007, the economy has lost more than 6 million jobs.

It's not all bad news, however: Experts note that the rate of job losses is slowing -- earlier in the year, American job losses totaled more than 600,000 per month -- and that certain companies and sectors actually are expanding their payrolls.

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"We're certainly up from where we've been over last six months," said John Challenger, the CEO of the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "I think the job market just froze from November through March -- throughout the winter -- and it does seem like it's picked up right with the season."

Industries that have seen relatively consistent growth throughout the recession have included health care and education, which gained a total of 34,000 jobs between May and June. Local governments, meanwhile, have recently increased hiring as they receive government stimulus dollars.

The restaurant industry is among the more surprising recent bright spots. While conventional wisdom would indicate that belt-tightening by consumers should trounce the sector, between February and June, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics registered an uptick in food services jobs.

"There are a lot of consumers who are trading down in their sectors," said Tig Gilliam, the CEO of the human resources company Adecco Group North America. "That doesn't mean that people are not going out to eat, they're just not going to eat at as-expensive restaurants."

Inexpensive restaurants that are hiring including Jason's Deli, a chain that focuses on healthy and organic food and sells sandwiches starting at $4.99. It's where Travis Smith, 34, found work as a comptroller after being laid off from the gourmet cookie company Mrs. Fields.

"For me to be able to find work within six weeks after being laid off was pretty amazing," said Smith, who started as the comptroller for the chain's Utah division earlier this year.

The company plans to hire more than 1,200 people in the next year as it opens 20 new locations, said CEO Joe Tortorice.

Applicants who were laid off from their last jobs are welcome to apply, Tortorice said.

"If we can change their life and give them an opportunity to grow, that's what we're here for," he told

Switching Industries to Stay Employed

Smith said that after being laid off, he purposely concentrated his job search outside of gourmet food companies.

"High-end selling items are dropping off," he said. "[If] someone has an option of buying something of similar value at less cost, they're going to choose that."

Joining Jason's Deli, he said, made sense because it's a growing company.

Smith isn't the only one switching industries to stay employed.

The health care industry has seen consistent job growth throughout the recession and that's something that helped Kristina Beatty, 27, make up her mind: The Pennsylvania woman left her job at a YWCA earlier this year to become a human resources coordinator at Providence Point, a new retirement community in Scott Township, Pa.

"I had a feeling it'd be pretty secure right now compared to other fields affected by the crazy economy," Beatty said.

Providence Point held a job fair late last month to fill some 200 vacant positions.

"Residents are beginning to move in, so we needed to staff it," said Maryclare Poprik, the director of public relations for Baptist Home Society, which owns the retirement community.

Meeting the needs of the country's aging population is a large part of what's driving growth in the health care industry, experts agree.

The economy, of course, has taken a toll -- hospitals, for instance, are seeing fewer elective surgeries and tighter budgets -- but not enough to stop the sector's expansion, Challenger said. Americans will continue to spend on health care, he added.

"It is one of those core things: If you're sick, you're sick," he said. "You spend your money when times are tight on those things you can't do without."

Sometimes a company can be expanding even if its sector is flagging. For instance, while the publishing industry continues to lose jobs, digital publisher Zinio -- which produces digital versions of magazines like Cosmopolitan and Billboard -- recently added 10 new employees.

After Jason Desmarais, 23, of South Salem, N.Y., got a pink slip from his job in finance, he found work as an account manager at Zinio.

"I wanted to be with an industry that's growing, not declining," said Desmarais. "Digital publishing obviously is a growing opportunity. That's one of the reasons I took the job."

How to Score Work in a Growing Field

Desmarais' new job is very different from the one he once held, he said, but his organizational and management skills helped him make the transition.

Jason Seiden, the author of the upcoming book, "Super Staying Power," said that if you're considering switching industries, it's important to get a firm grasp of what job you want and what skills you can apply to it.

If you're not sure what industry would suit you, Seiden said, it's worth consulting former bosses, colleagues, friends and family to get their take on what your talents are and where you could apply them.

"Ask them directly, 'What am I good at, what am I not so good at?'" he said.

Once you're actually interviewing for a job in a different industry, Seiden said, be sure not to turn off prospective employers by spending too much time lamenting your last job loss. Frame your industry switch as an opportunity that you're eager to take, he said.

"As an employer, I don't want victims," Seiden said. "I don't want people who don't want to be here, but I do want people who are adaptable and resilient."

Sometimes it's skills gained outside the workplace, Seiden said, that will help you land that next job.

Randi Melton, the owner of a new child care center in Sioux Falls, S.D., said one of her new hires was a woman laid off from a credit card company.

The woman's experience raising her own children, Melton said, helped her get the job.

"I figured if you have four kids, all within five years of each other, then obviously you have experience" that's relevant, Melton said.

"Anybody that's willing to work and learn," she added, "is trainable."

ABC News' Nathalie Tadena and Kristina Wong contributed to this report.

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