Here’s a test: Search any news database and look for articles that contain the words “layoff,” “unemployment,” and “recession.” If you confine your query to the past year, you’ll undoubtedly find more content chronicling struggling businesses and industries than on those that were hiring.

The truth is that consultants, like the rest of the IT family, have taken it on the chin in the rough-and-tumble economy. But where are the areas in which consultants are likely to find organizations that need competent, talented contractors?

Recently, we asked TechRepublic members who visited IT Consultant Republic to choose one of the five areas that they think will be hiring consultants this year (see Figure A).

Figure A

Of the 253 people who took the survey, 36 percent made government their first choice. Healthcare was a close second with 30 percent.

Financial institutions came in third with 20 percent, while manufacturing and utilities rounded out the list with 10 percent and 4 percent, respectively.

So, in anticipation of hospitals ratcheting up their compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), will you be sending your next resume to an HMO?

Do you think that proposed increases in U.S. defense spending, for example, will usher in aggressive hiring by government agencies?

Will measures like the June 2004 deadline for straight-through processing (STP) for financial institutions lead to a long-term contract?

Join the discussion we’ve already set up that asks members about likely sources for contracts this year. Tell us why you think certain industries will be hiring. We’ll feature the best comments in upcoming articles.