Where to find the silver lining in all the bad news

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So when the Federal Reserve chairman Ben S. Bernanke told the Senate Banking Committee today that the economic crisis is "severe" and that it could get worse than predicted, I admit a chill went up my spine.

But then as I always do, I took a few breaths and reminded myself that so far, I'm not seeing a lot of stories about people in soup lines, and that there's still a lot of good news out there, although I confess, it's hard to find. So in the spirit of optimism, I detail a few of the bright spots for readers here:

Some industries are still hiring: The health care industry is adding 300,000 jobs a year, according to the St. Petersburg Times, which got the numbers from a spokesperson at CareerBuilder.com. Education and "green" jobs are also considered solid professions to find work in. (Conversely, the most fragile industries right now are construction, manufacturing, finance, insurance and retail.) And if you are thinking of going into health care, nursing is by far the most recession-proof job out there. Nurses are always in demand. Medical technologists are also apparently in demand, at least in Utah.
Credit cards:
Oh, sure, most of the news with credit cards is brutal out there. But while it's easy to start thinking that new personal credit is impossible to come by, you can indeed still get credit card if your credit is at least sort of good. At least, that's what I found when I recently wrote an article for CreditCards.com, a news portal and comparison site on all things related to credit cards. Your odds of getting a great deal hinge on having a credit score of 750 or 760.

Housing market: Yes, it's not the time to be a seller, and the crumbling housing market is much of the reason we're in this mess. But it is increasingly a buyer's market out there (provided you have the income, good credit and 20% downpayment you'll need to get a mortgage these days).

Inflation:It's at zero right now. Of course, that's due to the bad economy, but, hey, prices aren't climbing at a time when many of us need them to stay where they are -- it's something. And I'm relieved that gas prices haven't been $4 a gallon for some time.

Social security: Seniors recently received the largest increase in their social security benefits since 1982.

Look around, locally: One reason it's hard to find good economic news is that it seems to be hidden in pockets around the country. While collectively there aren't a lot of booming businesses, there are success stories throughout America, still. The Telegram-Leader in Wisconsin is reporting that in Chippewa Valley, Nestle is expanding its baby formula business and adding 150 jobs. New Orleans is having a busy Mardi Gras, which is certainly helping the beleaguered city. In Dubuque, Iowa, IBM is opening a global delivery center and is expected to hire 1,300 people.

Again, finding any good news in the papers -- it's not easy -- but there are still opportunities out there for consumers and job hunters, and remembering that right now seems more important than ever.

Geoff Williams is a freelance journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
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