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Alex Rolek, recently unemployed, took his interest in sophisticated technology and turned it into a new career online. After graduating from University of Boulder-Colorado, he started his first “real-world” job at a Las Vegas land development company. While waiting for the housing market to bounce back, Rolek began using his HTML5 coding skills to pay the rent. In November 2010, he stumbled upon Elance, an online job marketplace, where he could search through an unending list of available coding projects. Rolek has been developing mobile applications for startups for the past 5 months and has earned approximately $10,000.

“I’ve never enjoyed working more than now,” said Rolek.

With 13.7 million Americans looking for a job and large employers taking a ‘wait and see’ approach to adding full-time staff, landing a good job can be tough. The uncertainty associated with the Obama administration’s health care policy and next year’s presidential election, have many employers in a holding pattern.

One type of employment bucking the national trend is online hiring – especially hi-tech development projects and marketing services. With technological innovation creating more jobs around mobile devices, the need for IT workers and computer engineers has been growing. Reluctant to hire full time staffers, employers have started hiring individual “contractors” or online freelancers with the necessary computer skills.

One small business hiring online is Qittle. They create and manage mobile marketing campaigns, mostly by pushing out mobile text messages. The company’s CEO, Casey McConnel, has been hiring online since he started in 2008. Three years ago he was the only employee and started outsourcing shortly after winning his first account.

“I was desperate to keep overhead low,” said McConnel.

Eventually, he hired an Elance ‘contractor’ as his VP of Technology, Qittle’s second employee. McConnel now has 20 employees, 12 are fulltime Qittle staff and the rest are online ‘contractors.’

Most of the work online falls under the heading of search engine marketing (SEM) which increases a website’s visibility in search results through search engine optimization (SEO), paid placement (PPC), contextual advertising and paid inclusion. Searching aside, HTML coders are still hot commodities as are iPhone and Google app developers.

Elance’s Vice President, Ellen Pack, confirmed that over 370,000 individual contractors are either working or seeking work on Elance today. She also noted that over 45,000 jobs were posted by primarily small businesses this month alone.

“In the toughest job markets in the country, we’re seeing positive signs,” said Pack.

Thirteen cities with unemployment rates above ten percent were ranked as highest-earning, fastest hiring locals on Elance’s most recent quarterly survey. Los Angeles, which has a stubborn 12 percent unemployment rate, ranked second-highest in pay and had the fastest hire rate on Elance’s platform.

But this online hiring growth may not be all positive. Medical benefits attached to traditional full-time positions are not included in any of the “contractors” compensation agreements. “Contractors” may have to skip a few check ups considering the high cost of individual health care coverage and the fact that “success stories” on Elance earn an average of $500 a week before taxes.

Also, the nature of the short-term projects means that looking for the next “job” takes up much of the online contractor’s workday, which in many cases starts and ends with a traditional job search.

“The HTML5 jobs are fun and keeping me afloat,” said Rolek, “but I haven’t stopped looking for full-time job.”

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