High unemployment and job scarcity, problems that helped stifle the U.S. economy last year, show signs of stabilizing this year. Economists are not expecting a boom in GDP, but the employment picture should be brighter than it was a few months ago, and modest growth is expected.

SEE: 5 Unconventional Jobs With Great Benefits

In Dec. 2011, some 200,000 new private sector jobs were created, shoving the unemployment rate down to 8.5%, a level not seen since 2009. Although the new jobs were added in a variety of categories, most jobs, about 50,000, were in the transportation and warehousing occupations. In November, only half the number of jobs were created, according to a government report. Many economists are forecasting continued growth in the labor market, but unemployment will continue.

Top Sectors
Job seekers in 2012 will find the best employment opportunities in the following sectors. Skilled and semi-skilled workers will be in high demand in the sciences, technology, business, computers and healthcare.

In the healthcare category, because of aging baby boomers, home health aids, medical specialists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, fitness instructors, pharmacy technicians, dentists and dental hygienists, and physicians will find lucrative employment opportunities. This is a most promising sector, with abundant openings expected, good salaries and job security. Many of these occupations do not require a college or associate degree.

Computer specialists with an information technology background will be needed to navigate the increasingly digitized world, the massive information and data bases already established, and those new and expanded data bases expected in the future. The growth of cloud computing and the thousands of new mobile applications already created, and the new apps appearing almost daily, will provide lots of employment opportunities. The growing interest in molecular computing will also create job opportunities. (To learn more, see 5 New Tech Jobs And What They Pay.)

Job opportunities in the sciences and technology field will increase as companies compete for employees with an education or experience in developing areas such as synthetic biology, nano-engineering and the fabrication of new materials. As the global economy recovers and new international enterprises are launched, businesses will seek out workers and professionals with experience in international taxation, compliance, finance, environmental issues and law, both domestic and international.

Industrial Jobs
In the coming year there will also be an abundance of additional jobs that don't require a college degree. Among them – and employer surveys say these jobs are still difficult to fill despite the continuing high unemployment rate – are sales representatives, mechanics, technicians, managers, machine operators, laborers, and delivery and truck drivers.

For the skilled laborer, there are additional employment opportunities. Union Pacific, for example, is reportedly looking for electricians with experience with diesel engines. In the manufacturing sector machinists, maintenance mechanics and welders are in short supply. Oil companies need workers for their drilling rigs, especially in North Dakota, where the petroleum industry is newly flourishing, creating job opportunities in other sectors in that location and elsewhere, as well.

The Bottom Line
There are job opportunities now, and more are expected in the near-term, as industries increase production and new enterprises are launched as the recovery continues. There's also more good news. Workers' wages have increased along with hours worked, potentially leading to more consumer spending, a phenomenon that could create more jobs. (For some jobs, which may disappear in the near future, check out 7 Endangered Careers.)

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