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Jobs picture gloomy. Where are bright spots for hiring?

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Edis Jurcys/Business Wire/File

(Read caption) Portland, Ore., Mayor Sam Adams (left), representatives from Oregon Health & Science University, and executives from Knowledge Universe, one of the nation's largest private education and child-care providers, unveiled plans to bring new jobs to the city on Aug. 2, 2010. Private education services nationally added more than 6,000 jobs in May 2011, and employment in the sector stands at an all-time high.

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America’s job machine not only sputtered last month, it sputtered and wheezed on almost all cylinders.

Manufacturing? Down 5,000 jobs. Retail sales? Down 8,500 jobs. Most other sectors of the economy saw a sharp slowdown in growth, which explains why the economy only gained 54,000 jobs in May, its weakest performance since September 2010, according to the Department of Labor’s unemployment report released Friday.

So where are the bright spots – and what does it say about the economy’s direction? Despite tight purse strings, businesses, consumers, and government are still willing to pay for more health care, private education services, and some technical sectors within business services.

Remarkably, the first two sectors have been almost untouched by the Great Recession. They have added jobs almost monthly since the recession began in December 2007. For example: Every sector of health care is at or near its all-time high.

So is employment in education services (which doesn’t count public education). While the nation’s public schools have lost 200,000 workers, primarily teachers, in the past two years, private education services have added 143,000 positions to reach a record 3.2 million workers last month. That’s 40 percent the size of the workforce in local public schools. A decade ago, it was 34 percent.

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