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As unemployment grows, job search sites thrive

September 20, 2010 | 11:28 am

JobsBrian Norgard left his job in April, but this isn't another unemployment story.

Historically, times of recession have proved opportune for starting new businesses. By the same token, we've seen start-ups flourish in the last few years, but Norgard has been doing it whether times were good or bad.

He founded a blog aggregation website called Newroo in 2002 and sold the company to News Corp. four years later. He worked at Fox Interactive Media, which manages MySpace, until this year and started another company on the side for helping social media users connect with advertisers.

Now Norgard is working with Web developers in Los Angeles on a new project called Namesake. It's a social networking site for helping people find jobs, stay connected with colleagues and,  for those with jobs,  organize projects with co-workers. In other words, Norgard is hoping to trounce LinkedIn.

Namesake isn't taking sign-ups yet, but Norgard hopes to begin inviting users in the next couple of weeks. The Times was shown an early version of the site, and features like the update stream and profiles look more like Facebook than LinkedIn.

The tools for staying in touch with people in a particular industry may appeal to those who are already employed, but the job-finding features will interest the 2.3 million California adults who are unemployed. Pretty fortunate timing for Norgard, since the state's unemployment rate has risen to 12.4%.

Namesake is just one start-up looking to capitalize on the growing number of people who are low on money but with more time to network and search for jobs online. Some are targeting niches -- Namesake's is "creative people."

Koda, based in San Francisco, lists openings for entry-level jobs, defined as those with less than five years experience.

Unemployment is high, but the number of jobs being posted online is also on the rise. Monster, which measures listings on its own site as well as others', reports a 21% increase in jobs being listed online in July versus a year ago. CareerBuilder saw an 18% increase in June., another job site, says listings increased in 11 of the 12 industries studied in its report.

So jobs are out there. But Koda Chief Jeff Berger says only a sliver of those are available to recent college graduates, who are not experienced and are entering one of the worst job markets in decades.

"Ultimately, a lot of the companies we talk to," he said, "only have a few jobs available to this demographic."

"Where are these jobs going to come from for this generation?" Berger asked. But he thinks he has the answer: "Companies are very top-heavy with people that are near the retirement age."

New York-based Jobulous is also paying special attention to recent grads. Like Namesake, the site combines social networking elements with job-seeking. Jobulous chief Ross Siegel started the company shortly after getting laid off in the spring of 2008.

"It's probably harder to get a job for a college student now than even when we came up with the idea for Jobulous," he said. "Even though the stock market has picked up and the economy has rallied, unemployment is higher than it was when we started this."

In the mean time, Robert Reich, a UC Berkeley professor, suggests BP should hire young people to clean up the oil spill.

-- Mark Milian 

Photo: Unemployed Deanna Rice, who was released after five years in a federal prison, holds up a sign looking for work in construction during a workers rally outside of a construction zone in San Francisco. Credit: Associated Press