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3 bright spots in the U.S. job market for 2013

January 2, 2013: 5:00 AM ET

Unemployment is slowly falling, and job creation is creeping up.

121207063219-jobs-report-unemployment-hiring-gallery-horizontalFORTUNE -- For the past five years, joblessness has perhaps been the biggest thorn on the U.S. economy. The unemployment rate peaked at 10% in late 2009. Since then, it has only fallen to 7.7% as of November, suggesting the long slog is likely to continue into the New Year.

For 2013, economists widely agree the outlook for jobs will continue improving but not by much. The economy is expected to create 2.36 million jobs, slightly more than the estimated 1.9 million that's estimated for 2012, according to IHS Global Insight.

Older workers, particularly those who've been out of work for more than six months, have been disproportionately impacted. So have young workers struggling to launch their careers. And countless other groups are feeling the weight of an economy peeling off from a financial crisis and housing market meltdown.

Amid another blah year, a few workers that bore the brunt of the Great Recession stand to gain in 2013. Here are three:

College graduates

Congrats class of 2013! You have a better chance landing your dream job than the poor grads before you working as baristas.

The years following the Great Recession hit workers across the board, but those stepping out of college campuses in 2012 were hit particularly hard. They graduated at a time when half of all recent grads were either jobless or working low-waged jobs, according to an April analysis by the Associated Press.

The job market isn't expected to be quite as harsh for young people next year, economists say. Employers anticipate hiring 13% more Class of 2013 college graduates than they hired from the Class of 2012, according to a survey of employers conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

The top five bachelor's degree in demand? Finance, followed by computer and information science, accounting, business administration/management and mechanical engineering.

Construction workers

As the housing market continues to heal in 2013, expect more hiring in construction. Since the Great Recession technically ended in June 2009, jobs in homebuilding dropped 14.5% from 633,000 to 552,800 in November, according to the Labor Department.

In 2012 alone, the construction industry lost 9,000 jobs. That's expected to reverse come 2013, when the economy will likely add 100,000 jobs in homebuilding and other construction work, says Marisa Di Natale, economist at Moody's Analytics. The most dramatic pick-up is expected in 2014, with 300,000 more jobs.

Government workers

For the past three years, local and state governments held off on new hires and shed jobs almost every month. Officials struggled with plummeting tax revenues linked closely to property values.

But after years of virtually no hiring and as the housing market recovers, governments are expected to hire again, Natale says. For 2013, state governments, in particular, are expected to add 70,000 jobs.

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About This Author
Nin-Hai Tseng
Nin-Hai Tseng
Writer, Fortune

Nin-Hai Tseng covers economics and finance. Before joining Fortune, Tseng was a reporter at The Orlando Sentinel and a public affairs associate at GE. She holds an MPA from Columbia University and a BS in Journalism from the University of Florida. She lives in New York City.

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