Who hires in a recession?

Qvisory reports that nearly one in five young adults are unemployed or looking for work, and Harvard’s Jeff Frankel says the recession crisis is now tied for longest since the depression.

No worries though. Optimism is strangely abundant. “There is a newly forming society of people who are making the best of being laid off,” the Boston Globe reports.

So if you’re being a curmudgeon, stop it. The recession is a great time to advance your career. It’s a myth that there aren’t any jobs. Here are three places to discover your next position:

1) Companies that save consumers money.
“While most big retail chains are closing stores and radically cutting back on new outlets, the dollar chains are planning to open hundreds of stores this year,” reports the New York Times. Dollar stores are out-performing even the Wal-Mart giant.

Not only are these once-shifty chains grabbing up market-share, but they’re now considered hot. Not just for the prices, but because consumers are discovering their service is better.

Consumers opt for value and family time over shopping in a recession, so personal attention and conveniences like an easily-accessible staff, less-crowded aisles and traversable parking is tracking with the consumer’s re-discovered values.

The online coupon distributor Coupons.com is also rapidly expanding for similar reasons. Just look at their jobs page; they have twenty-nine open positions in engineering, finance, HR, sales, marketing, and operations. And my own company Alice.com has hired three additional employees since I began work in January.

Saving money, value and convenience are hot commodities during a recession, and these companies will need your help satisfying the consumer’s appetite.

2) Start-up companies that disrupt markets.
Start-up companies like Alice thrive during a recession not only because we will provide value to the consumer, but also because we will disrupt the traditional retail market.

Other start-ups with disruptive business models are poised to take a strong foot-hold as well, like Hulu. In a recent video interview, CEO Jason Kilar reported that Hulu is ahead of their revenue plan for 2009 and they have ten advertised jobs available.

Indeed, Business Week’s Mike Mandel cites evidence that 80% of the top-ten Fortune 500 companies were started during a recession. Recessions have historically weeded out bad ideas and enlivened entrepreneurship, all of which comes together in a perfect storm for job-seekers, innovators and new thinkers.

3) Public sector jobs that solve problems.
The shift in talent to disruptive markets and new growth industries (like green, tech and health care) will have a lasting effect on the nation and the economy.

Especially since traditional careers like law, journalism and finance are all suffering from an identity crisis drastically altering career paths towards public-sector jobs including positions in non-profits, cities, counties, states and other government agencies.

“New career directions are tethered less to the dream of an immediate six-figure paycheck on Wall Street and more to the demands of a new public agenda to solve the nation’s problems,” New York Times columnist Steve Lohr argues.

And those do-gooder jobs tend to be fairly recession-proof. The top ten cities for job growth in 2009 as reported by Forbes all benefited from plentiful government jobs.

Topping the list for job growth is Madison, Wisconsin, the city I call home. A spokeswoman for the city’s chamber of commerce claimed that Madison is “historically recession proof,” in part because the city is the seat of city, state and county governments, and they all provide jobs.

The tie that binds these three opportunities for job-seekers – smart retailers, disruptive start-ups and the public sector – is the emergence of meaningful work in the face of complex problems.

Hiring Revolution.

What do you think? Have you had trouble finding a job in the recession? What industries have you seen luck and growth in, and which have been more difficult? What companies are poised to hire the next generation of talent?