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When the employment door closes, find an open window

  • Story Highlights
  • A broader gauge of unemployment says it's edging closer to 17 percent
  • Teenage unemployment is at an all-time high at 26 percent
  • Clark says the federal government has to fill thousands of positions
  • Demand for clean energy jobs in the next few years
By Clark Howard
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- The official unemployment rate inched up three-tenths of a point to 9.7 percent in August. Not good news, obviously; it's dangerously close to the psychologically devastating 10 percent mark.

Clark Howard says it's important to remember that jobs are always a lagging indicator of economic recovery.

Clark Howard says it's important to remember that jobs are always a lagging indicator of economic recovery.

At the same time, teenage unemployment is at an all-time high with roughly 26 percent of teens going jobless.

Meanwhile, a much broader gauge of unemployment called U6 is edging closer to 17 percent.

When the Bureau of Labor Statistics crunches U6 numbers, they take into account those who are involuntarily working part-time because they can't find full-time work and those who have given up looking for work out of sheer frustration.

Seventeen percent means about one in six Americans who want a traditional full-time job can't find one. But I'm here to tell you that things are not as bad as they seem, and the only thing that is the end of the world is, well, the end of the world.

Without a doubt, the employment thing will be a slow recovery. That's why it's important to remember that jobs are always a lagging indicator of economic recovery. Watch Clark help a caller find the right job Video

Think about it: Employers will start laying people off when business contracts. And then when things pick back up again, they'll start with the overtime instead of rehiring new employees. But that approach only works for so long until you exhaust your existing workers. That's when you have to start hiring again.

Yet opportunity comes up in unexpected places. The big, bad federal government has some 270,000 "mission critical" positions that must be filled over the next several years. Medical, intelligence and defense are among the hottest areas of federal hiring. Beyond that, there are more than 300,000 government jobs not considered critical fills, which account for normal turnover and vacancies created by retirement. is the official clearinghouse for federal hiring.

In addition, technological advances will create new types of jobs in the private sector. For example, clean energy -- whether you agree with it or not -- will translate to jobs such as the retrofitting of residential and commercial real estate for new green standards.

While much of the world has embraced alternative forms of energy, we're still playing catch-up in America.

The problem for homeowners has been figuring out how to implement technologies like solar, wind and geothermal. You can't exactly just call around for quotes. That's where the power of the Internet comes in. allows you to enter your street address and get a guaranteed quote on installation of a home solar system. The assessment is done by satellite mapping, so no visit to your home is required. However, this service is only available in select areas of the country.

There are now newly revised federal tax credits in place through 2016 to help defray 30 percent of the cost of installing solar panels at your home. The old cap on that tax credit is now gone. That alone should be a real boon to solar energy adoption.

I'm exploring the idea of solar panels at my home. I love the tax incentive, plus the long-term incentive of reducing what I pay to heat hot water.


So I'm predicting that this could be another employment opportunity for that hard-hit segment of jobless hard hats.

Remember, when one door closes in the employment world, you've got to find an open window -- just make sure it's an energy-efficient window!

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