But perhaps no topic provokes more interest among job seekers this Labor Day weekend than the elusive hot job. Where are these jobs? What do they require? And who is hiring?
The surprising answer is: They are out there -- thousands of them.
"There continue to be opportunities," even for those without a college degree, with the right training, says Bonnie Graybill, a top labor market analyst with the California Employment Development Department.
A new list from Graybill's office offers some enticing ideas for workers of all kinds, including registered nurses earning a median wage of $76,500 a year and heavy-truck drivers at $40,000.
Her office estimates there are about 30,000 California job openings in a dozen categories, ranging from executive secretaries needing modest work experience to computer software application engineers with bachelor's or advanced degrees.
Video game producer Donte Knippel is thrilled to have grabbed one of those hot jobs. His secret: Play the jobs game and hire a recruiting firm to help.
Laid off earlier this year when his previous employer closed, he looked for work for only two months before being hired in May by Obsidian Entertainment Inc. in Orange.
His job search floundered a bit at first but quickly hit pay dirt when he signed up with a local recruiting firm that specializes in such niche professions.
"There's always a company trying to do the latest and greatest," Knippel says, noting that the video game business is somewhat recession-proof because "people use video games to get away from their troubles."
People with game-producing skills are in high demand, says Trent Overholt, owner of Management Recruiters Los Angeles-South Bay, which helped Knippel connect with Obsidian. "There are many hot spots that employ specialized talent," he says.
But getting that specialized training isn't always easy.
'Very hard to make it'
Making enough money to pay the rent and buy the groceries is a challenge for single mother Lynn Woods of San Jose, who has been out of work since February. Woods, 48, worked for Hewlett-Packard Co. for 21 years before being laid off in 2001.
Since then she's run through a series of jobs and currently lives on unemployment benefits, food stamps and part-time work. While taking college courses online in hopes of earning a bachelor's in psychology, she is doing booking and sales for "Dr. Noize," a local children's entertainer.
"It's very hard to make it," she says.
Tax accountant Thomas Foose, however, didn't run into any difficulties when he and his wife moved to Southern California from the Bay Area earlier this summer.
On Aug. 18 he started at Holthouse Carlin & Van Trigt, a Santa Monica accounting firm, after getting multiple job offers from other employers.
Though it may "not be nearly as glamorous as some other roles," Foose, 26, concedes, accounting provides steady work. He credits his choice of profession -- and the constant need for accurate financial data -- for keeping him employed through two weak economies since graduating from UC Santa Barbara in 2001.