The year may start with a whimper, as political dickering in Washington casts a pall over the economy and businesses and consumers sit on their wallets.
But if politicians get their act together and resolve some big tax and spending issues, the economy could pick up steam in 2013, especially in the second half of the year. That will be terrific news for workers in some businesses that seem primed to rebound from the devastating recession in 2008 and 2009. Other businesses are booming as if there never was a recession, usually because of breakthrough technology that has captivated consumers.
To gauge which industries are the hottest, I asked industry-research firm IBISWorld to rank more than 1,000 industries according to the percentage of jobs they're likely to gain or lose over the next 12 months. Here are the industries expected to grow the most in 2013:
Social networking sites (a projected 51 percent increase in jobs). You've heard of Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, right? Such social networking sites account for about 20 percent of the time people spend online and are just beginning to attract major ad revenue. More such services are on the way, while the big boys get even bigger. And all of them are migrating to mobile devices.
Social network game development (36 percent increase). As people spend more time on social networks, they'll need more things to do there. While some game companies, such as Zynga, may have peaked, many others are likely to spring up.
Video game publishing (35 percent increase). Popular games such as Halo and Call of Duty, typically purchased for PCs, are now spreading to mobile devices as wireless streaming speeds improve. That will draw new players and keep growth strong.
Voice over IP (28 percent increase). A lot of consumers now get a bundled Internet package that includes phone service, displacing old telephone lines. More businesses are likely to follow the same strategy, a boon for cable companies and others that offer voice over IP.
Sustainable building materials (26 percent increase). New standards for buildings with a light environmental footprint are boosting demand for synthetic products that simulate wood, stone, and other natural materials. A recovery in the housing market should help, too.
Online payment processing software (22 percent increase). Shoppers are still shifting from retail outlets to online sites, and somebody needs to process all those payments. The next big thing will be mobile payments using smartphones, goosing growth even more.
Green building construction (22 percent increase). Even though the construction industry has contracted, this specialty has grown, with many state and local governments adopting new standards meant to make new buildings more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. That will continue to be the trend as construction rebounds.
Home builders (14 percent increase). Traditional home building will also bounce back in 2013, after a punishing six-year housing bust that finally ended in 2012. Nobody expects another bubble to develop, but housing should become a growth industry once again.
Remodeling (12 percent increase). Now that home prices have bottomed out in most areas, home owners feel better about spending a few bucks on upgrades. Pent-up demand will come from people who put off needed projects until they felt more confident about the economy.
Wire and cable manufacturing (11 percent increase). Today's buildings need to be wired for the information age, and that includes a lot of cables and other conduits for carrying communication signals in both new buildings and refurbished ones. Exports in this field are strong, allowing American manufacturers to cash in on growth in Asia and other places.