The economy has entered a serious funk with soaring costs, a declining housing market, limited access to credit and volatile stocks.Consumers hoping for a raise to help offset those financial daggers may be out of luck: Unemployment reached a 22-year high of 5.5% in May. Americans have lost 324,000 jobs so far this year. Much of the decline has come from construction, manufacturing and retail industries, the Labor Department said in its employment report on Friday. Health care led the charge in adding new jobs. "Discouraged workers were not currently looking for work specifically because they believed no jobs were available for them," the agency said. Still, a closer look at the subcategories shows which specific jobs have posted the sharpest declines so far this year, and where there could be room for further growth. The Winners 1. Pipelines: Pipeline transportation has been the fastest-growing job this year, adding 3.7% to its work force. Such structures transport oil, natural gas, water, sewage and other types of liquids and gases along pipes around the U.S. It makes up a small portion of the job market -- 42,300 jobs out of 138 million -- but could still add more employment as petroleum consumption grows and Americans move to new areas that need further infrastructure. 2. Mining and oil and gas extraction: Knowledge of minerals, geography and fuel extraction has been helpful in 2008. Mining support jobs have grown 3.6% so far, while the overall mining industry has expanded 2.3%. Jobs related to oil and gas extraction grew 2.1%. Key skills for such jobs include taking geological samples, exploring prospective sites, excavating pits, digging for minerals and tasks related to oil and gas extraction.
3. Sites for school trips: Employment at museums, historical sites, zoos and parks has grown 2.6% this year. There are 3,400 more people in these jobs -- selling tickets, handing out brochures, tending to animals and tidying up the park landscape -- than there were at the end of 2007. 4. Home health care: Within the strong health-care job market, there's a particular demand for those who take care of patients right in their homes. That segment grew 2.5%, adding 23,000 jobs so far this year. Health care and social assistance added 199,000 jobs to the market altogether this year. 5. Education:The educational job market expanded by 1.9% this year, representing 57,400 more teachers in all grade levels and specialty schools. This job segment tied with "performing arts and spectator sports," a much smaller job market that is growing just as fast. If you can teach dancing, singing or professional wrestling, perhaps you'll have twice the chance of getting hired. The Losers 1. The Auto Industry Manufacturers of vehicles and auto parts have been brutally hit by the weak job market, contracting 5.1% and shedding 49,100 jobs through May. This comes as major auto makers -- including the one-time "Big Three" in Detroit, GM ( GM), Ford ( F) and Chrysler - have slashed thousands of jobs or offered buyouts as the U.S. car market slumped. Those who are purchasing cars are heading for dealerships run by overseas competitors like Toyota ( TM) and Honda ( HMC), a trend that has been occurring for years. 2. Apparel industry: Two jobs that are directly related to the clothes on your back have lost a whole lot of jobs this year as well -- textile millworkers and apparel manufacturers. U.S. textile mills have cut 4.9% of their work force, as have apparel makers. In addition, department stores slashed 3.6% of their employees. Altogether those segments represent 74,100 American jobs lost. This trend comes as more production goes overseas and the market for discretionary retail items has softened dramatically as consumers save pennies for the necessities like bread, meat and fuel.
3. Construction and its components: The slumping housing industry has taken a toll not just on home values but the jobs that go into creating new homes. Manufacturers of wood products have slashed 4.9% of their work force. That includes 21,300 jobs related to furniture manufacturing. Overall construction lost 208,000 jobs, with the residential building industry losing 39,100, or 4.3% of its workforce. Especially hard hit were specialty trade contractors for residential construction, whose workforce contracted 4.7%. Those workers lay the foundations for buildings, perform exterior work, install mechanical systems and make repairs. 4. Temps: When making the choice between the salaried employee and the temporary help, employers have been slashing temp jobs left and right. Through May, 113,900 of those workers have been left jobless, representing a decline of 4.4%. 5. Postal workers: Believe it or not, Post Office employees are among the top workers looking out for pink slips. The agency has cut 29,800 jobs so far this year, a decline of 3.9% from the end of 2007. If only job-hunters were mailing out their resumes instead of submitting them online.