From the St. Petersburg Times:

In another time, Sandra Jeffreys might not consider herself lucky. She works two days a week at a nursing home and does contingency home-care work that can give her as much as four days a month or none.

She has applied for hundreds of full-time nursing jobs after graduating in December 2009 with an associate's degree and passing her state board exam last March. Jeffreys also worked in a nephrologist's office for five years before going to school and is enrolled in a master's program to become a nurse practitioner.

It's still a good time to look for work in health care, one of the most reliable job generators through the lengthy recession. But job seekers might be surprised to find fewer opportunities and longer job searches than they anticipated, depending on their location and particular occupation, as high unemployment and state budget cuts squeeze employers.

A recent interview for a hospital job left Jeffreys disappointed again.

"I was so excited because I found out it was mostly dealing with infectious disease. That's always been very interesting to me," said Jeffreys, 29, of Troy, Mich. "I called back after sending my thank-you letter. Nothing. They didn't even return my call."

The diverse health care sector has held up well through the recession, despite the decline in demand for services as more people lost their incomes and health insurance when they lost their jobs. Health care employs nearly 14 million Americans, and the sector added an average 21,000 jobs every month through November last year, slightly higher than the average 18,000 jobs added monthly in 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many health care occupations are projected to grow much faster than average in the next decade as the population ages.