A new report this week shows the number of Americans receiving jobless benefits has grown to nearly 6.7 million, the highest total on record dating back to 1967. The biggest losses are in manufacturing and construction. Across the country, many of the recently unemployed are going back to school. Some say they want to be ready for the jobs of the future.
As job losses mount, a growing number of unemployed workers are shunning traditional industries, to take advantage of opportunities in the so called "green sector": careers fueled by an increasing demand for environmentally sustainable jobs.
Laid off construction worker Matt Canepa believes his future is in solar power.
"The construction industry has taken a big hit here of late, so I'm in flux," he said. "And I think there are good opportunities in solar. So that's why I'm here."
Canepa is enrolled at San Jose City College in California's Silicon Valley, where students learn how to install solar panels and fix wind turbines.
Instructor Matthew Welch says the waiting list for his "Solar 102" class has more than doubled.
"The class is very popular right now. It is the bright spot on the future. The cost is going to be coming down so you're going to be seeing solar everywhere in the future," he said.
Colleges from California to Florida are expanding job training programs to meet the anticipated demand for green jobs, thanks in part to funding from the federal government's $787 billion stimulus package.
These students are optimistic that President Obama's campaign to promote alternative energy and combat global warming will create millions of new jobs.
But program coordinator David McFeely says students have to be patient.
"Right now things are really slow," he noted. "But most of the employers that I'm talking to say, you know, they are very hopeful that this summer they will see an uptake, and that they will be able to place a lot of these students in either full-time or internship positions."
Despite the high expectations, many economists say nationwide unemployment is likely to reach 10 percent or more before the year ends.
These students say they hope the jobs will be there by the time they graduate later this year.